University of Utah Can't Ban Firearms on Campus

Despite the recent gun violence on college campuses, the Utah Supreme Court decided this month to rule against an effort by the Univeristy of Utah's to make gun restrictions tougher.

Last week, a man opened fire in the cafeteria at Dawson College, located in downtown Montreal and killed one woman while injuring at least nineteen others. This week five basketball players of Duquense University were shot after a party. Both shootings came within days of a Utah Supreme Court decision rejecting the University of Utah's campus ban of firearms.

The university has had the ban on guns for several decades believing it necessary to keep a safe environment for students to learn.

However, in 2004 amendments to a Utah law were made to include institutions of higher learning with the local or state entities already prohibited from instituting their own gun bans.

The law stated that no other agency beside the state could impose individual policies that restrict the possession and use of firearms on public or private property. Therefore, the University of Utah's campus ban of firearms was in violation of state law.

The court in a 4-1 decision sided with this law and rejected the university claim that it had autonomous power to impose its own gun ban in order to make the college environment safer.

The decision came just days before shootings at the colleges in Montreal and Pittsburgh.

The incidents seemed to highlight the University of Utah's concern and view that a ban of guns on campus is necessary.

University Wanted Total Gun Ban, Law States Otherwise

The University of Utah's main sticking point was to ban all faculty, staff and students from carrying guns on campus.

Under Utah law guns could be banned on campus with the exception of individuals aged 21 and over that could apply for a concealed weapon permit.

The university sought to include these permit holders in the ban to cover all that was not already included by the law already but under Utah law such permit holders were allowed to carry guns onto the campus.

Michael Young, the university's president, said in an interview reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education "the moment somebody pulls a six-shooter out, it will have a chilling effect."

Mr. Young added that the gun ban was in place to prevent an environment of intimidation from developing and allow students to continue speaking freely in classes. Without a complete ban, students may worry spoken opinions might incense fellow volatile colleagues who carried guns or as Mr. Young pointed out a student may not feel comfortable to speak his mind if he/she thinks a classmate is carrying a gun.

Mr. Young also said that young students entering college have varying degrees of maturity and are put in intellectual and social situations they have never encountered before. "In that volatile mix, you want to introduce real ideas, and you want those ideas debated and thought about. But you also want to eliminate any kind of physical intimidation."

Mr. Young said that the university thought it was in its rights to take necessary steps to secure the safety of the educational environment needed at a university "where students and faculty can do their work without a threat to their safety and well-being."

Safe Places for Discourse ... Under the Law

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