Florida Supreme Court Lets Stand Ban on Guns in University Housing

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Florida Carry Inc. filed a lawsuit in 2014 arguing that people have a constitutional right to possess guns in their homes, including University of Florida housing.

In a defeat for the gun-rights group Florida Carry Inc., the state Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, declined to take up a dispute about whether guns should be allowed in the University of Florida housing.

Last October, the 1st District Court of Appeal upheld a ban on firearms in residence halls and other housing in a lawsuit brought by Florida Carry, which filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court in February of this year after its motion for a rehearing before the appeals court in January was denied. However, the Supreme Court issued a brief order saying it would not hear the appeal by the gun-rights group with no explanation for its reason. The decision declining to hear matter affirms the appeals court’s ruling.

The original lawsuit, which was filed by Florida Carry Inc. in 2014 against the university and then-university President Bernie Machen, argued that people have a constitutional right to possess guns in their homes, including in university housing.

“While … the Florida Constitution does allow for regulating the manner of bearing arms by law, nothing in the Florida Constitution allows the defendants to ban the possession, or keeping, of firearms in one’s home, nor does it allow a statutory interpretation that (leads) to a result that violates the core of the Second Amendment,” Florida Carry attorneys Eric Friday and Lesley McKinney argued in its February brief that sought to have the Supreme Court hear the case.

Also, the brief argued that the Supreme Court should determine whether the 1st District Court of Appeal “erred in lumping all university owned housing together, or whether distinctions should be made between the various types of housing owned by defendants, including on- and off-campus university owned housing, and single family versus multi-family housing.”

But in a brief filed by university attorney Barry Richard, several legal reasons were offered that the Supreme Court should not wade into the dispute.

“The decision below (in the 1st District Court of Appeal) presents no material departure from, or extension of, Florida or federal law, and no issue of sufficient magnitude to justify review by this (Supreme) Court,” the brief said. “Even if the (Supreme) Court were inclined to address the constitutional issues raised by Florida Carry, this case is a poor vehicle with which to do so. The constitutional issues received scant attention by the parties and minimal consideration by the district court, which notes ‘we are unaware of (Florida Carry’s) members’ specific housing situations.’ ”

Florida Carry filed the lawsuit against the Gainesville university after winning another gun-rights case involving the University of North Florida. In that case, the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that universities cannot bar students from storing guns in their cars while on campus.

But in the University of Florida case, the appeals court pointed to a state law that bars possession of guns on school property, including college and university campuses. It weighed that against another law that says people have a right to possess guns in their homes.

“Under appellant’s (Florida Carry’s) interpretation, the Legislature intended, without specifically stating so, to prohibit firearms on school property except for any place that might be considered a student’s home while on school property,” said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Joseph Lewis. “Reaching that result, however, requires a strained interpretation of the statutes involved.”

So the Court of Appeal let stand the ban on firearms in university housing.  Now with the state Supreme Court refusing to take up the matter, there will not be any firearms lawfully permitted in dorms, residence halls, or other university housing. . .for now.

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