Florida Group Works to Enforce Laws That Give Students Right to Carry Guns
Around the State
It’s OK to bring a weapon on the campus of Florida’s public universities and community colleges. Just leave them in your car.
One gun-rights group, Florida Carry, says it’s not up to the schools to decide where weapons are allowed and has filed a lawsuit to stop the institutions from writing regulations.
The group, a nonprofit that works to strike down restrictive gun laws, is suing the University of Florida in Gainesville, which bans firearms anywhere on campus.
The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, comes on the heels of a December ruling in another Florida Carry lawsuit, this one against the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. In that case, the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal ruled the school was violating a 2011 state law that stops local governments and state agencies from regulating firearms.
“We will continue with the steps to ensure compliance with this law,” said Eric Friday, a lawyer and the director of the southeastern division of Florida Carry.
Janine Sikes, assistant vice president of media relations and public affairs at the University of Florida, said the university is complying with state law.
“UF is fully complying with Florida law that bans guns on school and university campuses, including in residence halls,” she said, adding the university also is complying with the appeal court’s most recent ruling.
But Friday said UF is ignoring the appeal court’s ruling that holds that only the Legislature has the power to regulate firearms, trumping local governments and universities.
UNF will not appeal the decision that allows students and others from keeping “encased” guns in parked cars.
“Students still cannot carry a gun onto or on our campus …” UNF President John A. Delaney said in a statement. “To comply with the ruling, UNF has repealed the Weapons and Destructive Devices on Campus policy effective immediately and the regulation in the Student Code of Conduct has been footnoted consistent with the court’s ruling.”
The UNF case was brought by Florida Carry and Alexandria Lainez, a full-time student and a single mother who had extensive firearms and self-defense training. According to the lawsuit, Lainez was threatened with expulsion and arrest for keeping a firearm in her car while attending class.
The court ruling applies to all 40 of Florida’s public universities community colleges.
Other universities are gearing up for change.
Grant J. Heston, associate vice president for communications and public affairs for the University of Central Florida in Orlando, told Florida Watchdog that UCF plans to change its policy to comply with the recent court ruling. The wording of the policy is being developed, he said.
Adam Freeman, University of South Florida‘s media and public affairs coordinator, said the Tampa-based university also is reworking its weapon policy to be in line with the law. USF’s policy can be found by clicking here.
Florida International University in Miami also is making changes to conform with the law.
Since 1985, it has been legal in Florida for legal adults to keep firearms in their vehicles, even without a permit from the college.
“People need to know that there is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution (and that) neither governments nor the schools have the right to deny the Second Amendment,” Carry Florida’s Friday said.
Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org or on Twitter @mtoledoreporter.