Appeals Court Appears Wary Of Guns In Dorms

Jul 15, 2015
Originally published on July 14, 2015 6:43 pm

The First District Court of Appeal is considering whether to compel public universities to allow guns in school housing.

Florida Senators pushed the question of whether to allow guns on university campuses to the back burner during this year’s legislative session.  Despite the measure finding little resistance in the House, the state’s upper chamber wasn’t ready to make the leap.  But the pot kept simmering.  Tuesday lead counsel Eric Friday of the gun advocacy Florida Carry brought one part of the argument before a three judge panel at the state’s First District Court of Appeal.

“I think the legislature included—intended to include any home, your honor, no matter what that home may be, no matter who may live in that home, no matter what the ownership or lessor of the home is, the home is sacred,” Friday argues.

The provision in question comes from a series of lawful uses for firearms contained in Florida statute, including, “a person possessing arms at his or her home or place of business.” 

But Barry Richard, attorney for the University of Florida, says state law is equally clear about guns on campus. 

“Section 115 is quite clear and unambiguous,” Richard says, “in its prohibition of the possession of firearms at schools including post-secondary schools, and interestingly the plaintiffs do not contest that fact.”

Confusing the matter further is a clause held up by the pro-gun side saying its law supersedes all others.  But the university is quick to point out its provision is also referenced in that statute. 

Meanwhile the judges seem hesitant to make a sweeping ruling in favor of guns without a specific person who has been harmed.  Florida Carry is the only party bringing the case—there isn’t a student member listed as plaintiff.  In addition, Judge Scott Makar seems unsure the school is violating the law because university housing is voluntary.

“To the extent that the university has said here are our housing options,” Makar says, “I mean you can live off campus and have a gun in your apartment, but here pursuant to the legislative policy, here are your housing options and they don’t include having a weapon.”

Whatever the outcome of this case Florida Carry appears ready to continue pushing for expanded gun rights in the Legislature and the courts.

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