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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The state's highest court will hear arguments in the battle over the right to ban guns on the University of Utah campus.
University administrators say the school has the right to keep its 28-year ban on guns on campus despite a state law that says otherwise. State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff maintains that the ban is not covered under the Utah Constitution.
Shurtleff's appeal of a lower court ruling that sided with the university is scheduled for a hearing Monday before the Utah Supreme Court.
"The only issue before the court will be whether the state constitution protects the university's right of autonomy," university attorney Alan Sullivan said.
Assistant Attorney General Brent Burnett said the school is covered by the same guidelines as other state institutions.
"Does the state constitution give some kind of autonomy to the U., allowing it to disregard state law?" Burnett asked.
The Legislature passed a bill this year requiring the university to allow permitted firearms on campus. But the Utah Supreme Court in May declared moot the issue of whether the university is acting against state regulations. The state's appeal will continue with both sides only arguing whether the ban is against the state Constitution.
In Shurtleff's brief to the Supreme Court, he argues that the Utah Constitution contains no right to academic freedom for the state's public colleges and universities, and that the university cannot continue to defy the will of the Legislature.
A ruling from the state court may not be the end of the issue. Burnett said the school could still go to a federal court, claiming it has a constitutional right to keep the ban if the Utah Supreme Court rules for the state.
If the court sides with the university, the issue becomes moot, Burnett said.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)