University of Utah Can't Ban Firearms on Campus

Anthony Rotella, a student of the New York Institute of Technology in Long Island, believed that the school was in its right to ban even those students with a concealed weapons permit because otherwise "students are left in a state of fear about guns where they shouldn't be … in a classroom."

Sharing this sentiment was the Court's Chief Justice, Christine Durham, who was the lone dissenter believing the university's interests of safety in this case outweighed its violation of instituting restrictions of firearms.

Justice Durham sided with the university and wrote "the university's academic interests must be weighed against individual constitutional rights where these rights are properly invoked" and that "a policy that prohibited students and employees from openly brandishing firearms in classrooms would clearly be legitimate."

Justice Durham continued in her opinion "that a no-weapons-on-campus policy is necessary to the educational enterprise" and therefore it can be concluded, "the university's policies governing students, faculty and staff are within its authority to govern academic affairs."

Yet the Utah State Supreme Court disagreed with the position of the school. The ruling of the State Supreme Court stated that "the university's claim is unsupported by the text of our state's constitution" and that "the university is subject to Utah law prohibiting it from enacting or enforcing any policy restricting the possession or use of firearms."

Justice Jill N. Parrish wrote in the ruling that the law prohibiting any entity from imposing gun bans "dramatically altered the legal landscape, rendering it clear that Utah's firearms statutes are universally applicable, rather than merely criminal in nature, as the district court had concluded, and that the university's firearms policy does, in fact, violate Utah law."

Chuck Keeley, a student at Fordham University in New York, agreed with the Court. "The state university cannot enact a rule exempting itself from state law, which specifically prohibits it from banning firearms," he said, "the state university has no such right." And under the current law in Utah, the Court's and Mr. Keeley's interpretation are correct.

The opposing views on the issue between the school and the court came down to who had the legal right to institute such gun restrictions.

Ultimately, Mr. Young said, the state was saying with this decision that when it came to gun legislation, "we make the rules, not you."

The issue is in the process of hopefully being resolved. Mr. Young said the university has a federal claim pending but it is on hold while the institution dialogues with the state to see if a compromise can be reached.

Mr. Young added that the complete ban was more to make a statement of creating a safe environment than actually strictly enforcing it. He said situations like Montreal and Pittsburgh differed because anyone intent on using a gun will short of installing metal detectors which also effectively detracts from the feeling of freedom on campus, a goal of the gun ban.

The full ruling of the Utah Supreme Court can be seen here: http://www.utcourts.gov/opinions/supopin/UnivofUtah090806.pdf

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