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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Florida Court of Appeal Rules That Universities Cannot Prohibit Guns in Cars on Campus

From the court of appeal's en banc majority opinion in Florida Carry, Inc. v. University of North Florida:

At issue in this case is whether a state university may prohibit the carrying of a securely encased firearm within a motor vehicle that is parked in a university campus parking lot. We hold that the legislature has not delegated its authority under the Florida Constitution to regulate the manner of bearing arms to the state universities and reverse the orders on appeal.  
. . .  
UNF maintained that the regulation was authorized under section 790.115(2)(a)3., Florida Statutes (2011), which provides that firearms may not be possessed on school property except when securely encased in a vehicle, but that “school districts” may adopt policies to waive the secure encasement exception. The appellants countered that UNF was not a “school district;” therefore, it was not authorized to waive the exception and prohibit firearms in vehicles on its campus.  
After hearings on the motions, the trial court denied the appellants’ motion for temporary injunction and granted the appellees’ motion to dismiss. The trial court reasoned that applying the appellants’ definition of “school district” to section 790.115 would permit only public schools to regulate firearms on their property and frustrate the clearly expressed intent of the legislature to cover all schools as the term “school” was broadly defined in section 790.115(2)(a). 

The case turns on the distinction between the terms "school" and "school district."  While "school" is defined broadly in the statute, "school district" is a narrower term.  The court noted that "school district" is a term in the Florida state constitution, and that the constitution specifies that "school districts" are public schools governed by school boards -- and separate from the state university system.

Based on the last paper that I read on the subject, 19 states give universities the discretion to ban firearms on their campuses, and nearly all universities elect to do so.  Here, it looks like the Florida state legislature never purported to grant full discretion to universities -- the state statute banned firearms on school property, but had an exception for firearms kept in vehicles, and the question was whether Florida universities could enact policies holding that this exception would not apply to their campuses.  Under this ruling, the power to determine that the vehicle exception does not apply to school property is reserved only for school districts, and not state universities.

(H/T Howard Bashman - How Appealing)

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