Event at Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club featuring gun display sparks concern
June 12, 2018
An event sponsored by the Utah Gun Exchange at the Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club on Monday sparked complaints from nearby residents about the visibility of guns on the course and is leading the club to review its policies for hosting private affairs.
The Libertas Institute of Utah rented the course for a private tournament that featured about 125 golfers. The event lasted from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. The Libertas Institute is a Libertarian-leaning Utah-based nonprofit that promotes limited and open government. The Utah Gun Exchange is an online marketplace that allows people to buy and sell firearms.
Gun displays were set up at some of the holes during the tournament, while an armored vehicle with a replica of a large-caliber mounted gun was featured on the course.
Chad Pettingill, general manager of the country club, said the club was not aware that gun displays were going to be featured until the day of the event.
"We were surprised in the morning when they showed up," he said. "That was a surprise to us. Once we found out, we asked them to display the guns in a certain area so they weren't so close to Jeremy Road. We were sympathetic to everyone's concerns."
Lt. Andrew Wright, with the Summit County Sheriff's Office, said dispatch received a call at around 8:15 a.m. from a resident concerned about the event. Another report was made later in the morning.
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"The caller told dispatch they were upset with the event," he said. "We specifically asked if there was any discharge of a weapon and they said, 'No.' They just saw the event and the weapons and was concerned."
A deputy investigated the report but found that the groups were not violating any laws, Wright said. He added, "It was on private property so there was not much that we could do, especially if they were not violating the law."
Utah, as an open-carry state, allows individuals who can lawfully possess a firearm to display it, Wright said. However, firearms cannot be discharged within 600 feet of a house, building or structure that contains livestock.
"But, we weren't ever told there was a discharge of the firearm. That was not relayed to us and we didn't verify that there was any shooting," he said.
Connor Boyack, president of the Libertas Institute, said the event was an annual fundraising tournament. It was the third time the country club has hosted the event for Libertas, but the first time Utah Gun Exchange has been a sponsor.
Boyack referred to the complaints as the "opinionated ramblings of a certain individual." He said he understands if people who passed by were curious, but emphasized that the gun on the armored vehicle was not real.
"If anyone were to ask and we were to explain that it was fake, we would expect people to understand," he said. "There were no projectiles or any danger to anyone. I think this was more the result of an anti-gun crusade rather than any concern for safety."
But, the concern about the event is leading the country club to review its policies.
Josh Footer, a member of the country club's board of directors, said he understands the sensitivity of the situation given recent events that have transpired around the country involving gun violence. He said the event has caused the board to question its protocol when hosting private events.
"We as a club are always looking to balance the interest of the private groups that rent our facility and the interest of our neighbors," he said. "We will be looking to improve our communication. We want to have these conversations. We don't like that people were upset. That was by no means our intention and we very much understand everyone's sensitivity."
Footer said the country club tried to walk a fine line between Second Amendment rights and the sensitivity of its neighbors. He said the board will re-examine the club's policies. He added, "If we had known that the Gun Exchange was going to be a sponsor ahead of time we would have done our best to communicate that properly."
Footer emphasized that the board is not taking a political stance on the issue. He said the discussion at a board meeting later this month will only focus on improving communication with nearby residents.
"We are a golf club. We are around to serve our members and we are not a political organization," he said. "We are going to look at what our policies are to make sure we don't create controversies because that is not our place to take a side. We don't condone violence. That should go without saying. But, we want to see what we can do is engage in a dialogue. We regret any concern or stress that was caused by this event."
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