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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The UA and Guns: A campus controversy

    Due to a Supreme Court ruling in late June, some citizens believe universities in Arizona are closer than ever to allowing guns on campus.

    Arizona, long known for its permissive gun laws, has been the stage for various attempts to legalize the possession of concealed weapons on campus.

    The latest such state bill entered the Legislature last March and was voted down. Currently, Utah is the only state to allow students to carry concealed weapons on school grounds, but because of a controversial Washington D.C. case recently decided in the U.S. Supreme Court, many people feel the issue could resurface before long.

    “”It’s going to be a question the courts will be looking at in the future,”” said Jacob Lines, a deputy Pima County attorney. “”If a student plaintiff comes along with enough time and money to press the case, we could see the issue move out of the legislature and into the judicial realm.””

    In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 that Washington D.C.’s ban on all personal firearms not owned by police officers was in violation of citizens’ Second Amendment rights, and set the precedent that legislators cannot unconditionally ban citizens from keeping firearms in their private homes.

    Also expressed in the decision was the statement that the ruling was not intended to cast doubt on “”laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings…””

    Some observers foresee a potential conflict for citizens who live on campus, and whether or not they should be allowed to keep firearms in their dorm rooms.

    “”It would be a very interesting argument,”” Lines said. “”On the one hand, the judges pointed out the ruling was not intended to affect traditionally restricted areas like courthouses and schools, but they didn’t say anything on the topic of people who live on school grounds.””

    As is common in many western states, gun laws in Arizona allow citizens to carry personal firearms without a permit in public as long as they aren’t concealed.

    If a person brings a weapon on school grounds, however, he or she is guilty of a crime which can be charged as anything from a class one misdemeanor up to a class six felony, which warrants the sentencing of prison time.

    Officer Andrew Valenzuela of the University of Arizona Police Department Crime Prevention Office said that it makes no difference, in terms of punishment, whether or not a weapon on campus is concealed.

    “”The Board of Regents establishes the rules for all universities state-wide,”” Valenzuela said. “”Any weapon on campus is a violation, whether it’s concealed or not.””

    Many residents are content with Arizona’s current gun laws and school policies, including Gov. Janet Napolitano, who has publicly expressed her desire not to see any new legislation. Other groups, however, view the recent Supreme Court ruling as an opportunity to catalyze policy change.

    “”The fact that the Supreme Court upheld the Second Amendment gives hope that our issue will begin to get more attention and consideration,”” said Sam Edwards, a member of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, a national organization that lobbies for the right to bear concealed weapons at universities across the nation.

    Edwards said that he believes carrying personal firearms on campus is not only a basic constitutional right, but that it would decrease the loss of life in the event of a school shooting such as the Virginia Tech incident of 2007. Others disagree with his position.

    “”My personal opinion is that more students with guns in a situation like that would cloud the scene,”” Valenzuela said. “”Under those circumstances, we’re trained to address the threat directly and with whatever force is necessary, and anyone with a gun would get addressed.””

    Despite the hopes of advocacy groups that the Supreme Court decision will lead to immediate change, Lines said that a drastic change probably won’t happen in the near future.

    “”Since the ruling didn’t address the issue of concealed weapons on campus, it’s unlikely that groups will be able to use the ruling to directly argue their case,”” Lines said. “”But they could use it as a starting point.””

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