PROVO, Utah, Sept. 18, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — An LDS Church spokesman has denounced the presence of privately owned firearms in meetinghouses following an accidental gunshot fired into a room of juvenile females, an incident a church official originally tried to keep quiet.
LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins has released the following statement:
“On Sunday afternoon, a small-caliber pistol was accidentally discharged in the entrance of a meetinghouse in Provo. Gratefully, no one was injured. The gun belonged to member of the congregation, who had left it in his backpack following target shooting the previous day.
“We remind members and visitors to our chapels of the Church’s policy on firearms: ‘Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world. The carrying of lethal weapons, concealed or otherwise, within their walls is inappropriate except as required by officers of the law.’”
The case is still under investigation, Sgt. Nisha King, Provo Police Department, told Gephardt Daily, but the .22 caliber gun is believed to have fired after the gun’s hammer caught on something else in the backpack, she said.
The shot reportedly went into a classroom being used by the Church’s Young Women group, which typically contains girls age 12 to 17.
An unidentified male leader spoke to the girls following the gunshot, to tell them what had happened and to ask them not to post information about the gunshot, to keep it out of the media.
A recording of that conversation was leaked by MormonLeaks, a website that describes itself as “a non profit media organization founded on the belief that increased transparency within the Mormon Church results in fewer untruths, less corruption, and less abuse within Mormonism.”
The audio is said to come from the gunshot incident at the Provo Edgemont North State. To hear the entire 4:17 minute recording, click on the video below.
“There was a mistake, and it was not by any evil, bad person, but what you need to know is there was a mistake, and fortunately, no one was hurt,” the unidentified voice says, in part. The man goes on to explain that a safety came off a gun in a backpack, and the gun discharged.
“So that’s what’s happened, and we would appreciate — you know you have your freedom to do as you will — appreciate you not spreading that around, because that could incite the issue that they’re trying to protect against, by chatter, social media or otherwise. Does that make sense? Do you have any questions?”
Answering a question, the man said, “You can talk to your mom and dad about it, you can talk here, but we would rather you not post, ‘Hey, a gun went off today at church.’ That will hit headline news, and go national, and really create a situation that’s hard to control.”
The man also said he conversed with the gun owner, and promised that, “That particular gun will never come back.”
King identified the gun owner as 74-year-old Walter Stewart, of Provo, and said he has not been charged, but the case has been referred to the Provo City Attorney.