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ABC4 experiment shows mixed reaction to guns in public

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (ABC 4) - How do you feel when you see an ordinary person carrying a gun on the street, in your grocery store or coffee shop? If it makes you jumpy, there's a group trying to change that and they're using more guns to do it.
TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (ABC 4) - How do you feel when you see an ordinary person carrying a gun on the street, in your grocery store or coffee shop? If it makes you jumpy, there's a group trying to change that and they're using more guns to do it.

Zach Wellman takes his gun wherever he goes.

“When I wake-up in the morning the firearm goes with me when I go home at night my firearm goes with me,” he said. Wellman is part of a national movement of 2nd amendment activists demonstrating their right to carry their weapons in plain view. It's called open carry.

Utah is one of 43 states allowing any non-felon to openly carry an unloaded gun. But even though people can doesn't mean they should, according to some.

"I’m frankly fearful when people can wonder around my grocery store or my coffee shop with their fire arms,” said Gary Sackett, of the Gun Violence Prevention Center. "It creates anxiety and fear in the population at large."

ABC4 wanted to know how ordinary people feel about seeing someone carrying a gun in broad day light. So reporter Kim Johnson set up a hidden camera experiment at Coffee Club in Taylorsville.

It didn't take long for Wellman and his favorite accessory to get noticed.

From looks, to stares even jaw dropping gazes. One man even eyeballs the gun not once, twice, but three times.

“It was unusual to see a regular person come in with it but it didn't bother me,” said Kelly Watkins.

But it did bother Nikki Roberts who couldn't ignore the weapon as Wellman makes small talk. “He had a gun on his belt,” she said. “I'm kind of scared of guns-- people don't walk around with guns on their belts.”

But other gawkers just assumed he was law enforcement and the gun actually made them feel safer.

“I just thought that maybe he was off-duty,” said Joy Genessy.

Joe Tonumaipea agrees, “Thinking he was an officer I felt safe.”

Amy Tam though had just the opposite reaction. She tells ABC4 she wanted to run when she saw the gun. “First I think maybe he's an officer then I’m like maybe he's not,” she said. “If he is that's good if he's not then I want to leave as soon as possible because I don't feel comfortable seeing someone who's like showing the gun walking around.”

But if Wellman had his way everybody would be used to seeing guns in public places, not only is it his right he argues, but it promotes safety. “They say an armed society is a polite society,” he said. “I believe in personal protection for myself. I have four kids so I want to protect my family and bystanders as well."

Sackett disagrees and believes guns are not the answer to a safe society. “The fact is people who wear those weapons aren't in the business of fighting crime,” he said. “Untrained people are really not in a position even if something were to occur to make judgments about how to use or when to use deadly force.”

You can't open carry everywhere in Utah. Airports and courthouses are off limits. But surprisingly you can carry at public universities. Utah is the only state with that law in the books.
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