U of U Refiles Gun Lawsuit

U of U Refiles Gun Lawsuit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The University of Utah has filed in 3rd District Court its suit seeking a ruling upholding the school's ban of campus guns.

The suit originally was filed in federal court but U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball ruled last month that a state court needed to look at issues of state law before federal issues were considered.

In a unanimous vote Monday, the university trustees gave the go-ahead to file the case in state court.

"The filing the U. has made involves both issues of state and federal law," said Fred Esplin, vice president of university relations. "Judge Kimball directed that the state issue be considered first. That is essentially what we are doing. We are going to the state court to resolve the state issue and we anticipate the federal court will take up the federal issue."

At issue for the state court is whether the school has the authority under Utah law to ban guns toted by holders of concealed-weapons permits. University officials will argue the state Constitution and laws allow them to ban all weapons, said Esplin.

Assistant Utah Attorney General Brent Burnett said his office will respond in 20 days to Monday's filing. He said the issue is not whether firearms belong on the campus, but who is the decision maker.

"Can the university make its own policy concerning firearms? Or are they bound by the Legislature's determination?" asked Burnett.

If the university loses on the state issue, the case would go back to Kimball to resolve the federal issues.

The federal court case centers on whether academic freedom is protected under the U.S. Constitution.

"The presence of firearms in the classroom would severely limit academic freedom," said Esplin. "It would fundamentally change what happens in a classroom, if you have to worry about who is packing a pistol in their backpack."

State Sen. Chris Buttars, R-West Jordan, a supporter of the state's concealed weapon law, said, the university ought to "stop fighting and just obey the law,"

"The law is that if you have a permit to carry a weapon, you can go where you want to go," said Buttars.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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