Supreme Court rules guns on campus constitutional

Stevie Stewert While many feel a college campus is safer without guns, Utah State Law says state and local agencies…

Supreme Court rules guns on campus constitutional

The Utah Statesman

on September 30, 2006 at 12:00 am

Stevie Stewert

While many feel a college campus is safer without guns, Utah State Law says state and local agencies cannot restrict possession or use of firearms on public or private property.

Students, visitors and employees of the University of Utah have been strictly prohibited from carrying guns on campus since the 1970s. According to Utah’s Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff, the case is not an issue of guns or violence. The case was about obeying the laws.

The decision came four years after the University filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Mark Shurtleff and challenged his opinion that the school’s policy was contrary to Utah’s Uniform Firearms Act.

The Supreme Court agreed with Shurtleff. A 4-1 ruling on Sept. 8 declared that the U’s ban on guns was contrary to state constitution. While many argue that allowing guns on a educational campus is absurd, an amendment to the law specifically reads, “including state institutions of higher learning.”

“This decision is a victory for the rule of law. It also gives clarity to the University and allows school officials the opportunity to work with legislators to discuss any changes to state laws,” Shurtleff said in a press release.

U of U president, Michael Young is urging the case toward the Federal Supreme Court and says he is primarily concerned with keeping the learning environment safe. Shortly following the Utah court decision, Young said the university will continue the ban on guns until a decision is reached by a federal court. More recently, however, the University of Utah has announced that it will suspend its policy on banning guns on campus for the immediate future.

The only justice to agree with the universities decision to ban guns was Justice Christine Darham who said the schools policies are with in its autonomous authority over academic affairs.

Durham wrote, “The policy is necessary to the educational enterprise.”

In contrast to Chief Justice’s decision, the other four justices were in consensus that the ban is unconstitutional and the school should not be able to make its own laws.

While feelings were mixed among the court, feelings on Utah’s college campuses are much the same. Several students expressed views after the court’s decision, saying there is no need for guns at school.

Here at Utah State, it seems some students have little concern about the safety of campus. According to students like James Call, who admit to carrying a gun on campus, it is not about needing a gun on campus it is about having the right to choose to have one.

“The people with a permit to carry guns aren’t the ones we need to worry about,” said Jeanette Shields, an agriculture education major. “Those who admit to carrying a gun are usually those who don’t intend to use it.”

When asked if he thought USU students should be concerned about people bringing guns to school due to the awareness that has been generated by the case at the University of Utah, Reed Merrick, a senior majoring in landscape architecture said students should not be worried.

“I don’t think USU is an unsafe place,” Merrick said. “Bringing a gun to this school is a constitutional right, but a don’t think students often feel the need to have a gun.”

USU’s administration also expressed views on the court decision saying that higher education in Utah will work with legislative leaders on potential legislation that would create some specific exemptions to current law.

According to USU President, Stan Albrecht, changes to the current law might include prohibiting guns in places like, student housing areas, classrooms, and hospitals (as in the case of the University of Utah’s teaching hospitals).

“It is difficult for any of us to conceive why one would need to carry a gun in any of these settings,” Albrecht said, “We will work with our colleagues at the U and with other presidents of colleges and universities in the state system of higher education on this potential legislation. We do not anticipate any changes in our current policies at Utah State University until we see how all of this works out.”

President of the Utah Senate John L. Valentine praised the court’s decision: “I appreciate what this ruling does for the second amendment issue but, more importantly, it reaffirms that government by the people, through their elected representatives, is the law of the land. There is really no room for independent islands of authority within state government.”

In a statement after the ruling, a university spokesperson from the U said school officials were disappointed with the ruling, the only intent from the beginning was to keep students safe. The schools administration says they will continue pushing the case to federal court in order to maintain a safe school environment.

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