By Leaa Forschler
Evan Orme, a BYU student living in off-campus housing, met with frustration during his search for an apartment complex that would allow him to store a gun in his apartment.
?I tried to talk to a couple of landlords and get approval to have a gun, but the landlords said, ?We don?t want you here if you request that,?? Orme said.
When he talked with BYU off-campus housing he said he got mixed answers about if it would be allowed.
?I like to go out and shoot firearms with my friends and family on weekends,? Orme said. ?I think it unfortunate that because of the mechanisms in place you can?t find a way legally to have a firearm while attending BYU.?
After he read a question about gun laws posted on the 100 Hour Board, Orme said he thinks the landlords and BYU may be breaking the law.
?It seems like gun laws issues is something that has just been ignored and swept under the rug,? Orme said.
According to Utah code, a landlord cannot regulate a person?s constitutional right to own a gun.
Mitch Vilos, a lawyer in Utah and an expert on gun laws, said clauses in a landlord rental agreement that restrict a tenant?s right to own and store a gun in their place of residence are against the law, making the contract void. He cited three different laws to support this premise.
?On its face it seems to be a violation,? Vilos said. ?To own a gun is an inalienable right. With all those [laws] together it is clear that the [landlords] are in violation.?
A university-approved rental must use approved rental contracts with its tenants. This can either be a university off-campus housing contract or one that has been approved by the university. To be approved the contract is required to contain a clause stating that students are not allowed to have firearms in their apartment without prior written consent from the owner and the other tenants living in the apartment.
Carri Jenkins, BYU spokeswoman, said students would need to find some type of storage ? like a shooting range or family member?s home ? if they wanted to own a gun while living on campus.
?In on-campus [housing], if students bring guns then they are not allowed to have the guns with them, but we do provide a place for storage,? Jenkins said.
Problems begin once students leave campus housing and move off campus, where it becomes more ambiguous who is preventing them from taking guns home ? whether BYU student housing or actual housing complexes are responsible for the rules student?s must adhere to.
?If [BYU] is going to deny someone the right to protect themselves then [BYU] takes on the responsibility,? Vilos said. ?I think BYU and student housing are taking a significant risk if someone were raped, harmed or killed, and that student could have prevented it by having a firearm.?
If a student was harmed in a break-in and could prove they would have had a firearm and could have prevented it, BYU could be held liable, Vilos said.
Jessica Hickman, assistant office manager at the Riviera Apartments, said students are not allowed to store guns in their apartments.
?We?ve had students call in the past and ask about having firearms in their apartments, but we don?t allow it,? Hickman said.
Other apartment complexes also do not allow tenants to store guns in their apartments.
Terry Petersen has worked in the off-campus housing office for 15 years.
Petersen said he has only heard of one case where off-campus housing has aided in a student getting permission from a landlord to have a gun stored in their apartment. In this student?s case, the student worked as a security guard and his gun was locked in a safe with the ammunition locked up separately.
Petersen said he thinks safety is the primary reason behind the required clause in the BYU off-campus housing contract.
Carleton Clauss, 22, from Crossville, Tenn., found a way around the law by storing his two guns at his brother-in-law?s house. Clauss said his choice to not store his gun in his apartment was regulated more by his concerns for being responsible and safe than by BYU.
?I don?t think my apartment is secure enough to have a gun stored in it,? Clauss said. ?Maybe with a house but not with an apartment because your door is unlocked or open half the time, and everyone knows everyone else?s schedule.?
Even though he doesn?t keep his guns at his house, he still thinks BYU shouldn?t regulate his gun ownership with the off-campus housing rental agreement.
?I think as much as BYU can, they should stay out of my business,? Clauss said. ?It would be really weird if I got approached by the honor code office for having a gun stored in my apartment. Usually you get approached by the honor code office for having a girl in your apartment.?
He also said he doesn?t like the idea of using his gun for protection. He disassembles his guns before storing and puts a lock through the chamber to make it unable to fire.
?It would take me maybe 10 minutes to get it ready to fire my gun,? Clauss said. ?I would have to ask the crook to sit and wait for a while.?