Regents pass gun ban amid legal controversy

Kari Petrie

The University could be facing a legal showdown over its new policy banning guns.

The policy, passed Friday by the Board of Regents, prohibits students, employees and visitors – even those with legal conceal-and-carry permits – from carrying guns on campus or at University-related, off-campus events.

According to the policy, police and military personnel can carry weapons when on duty and grants the University’s president the power to decide who else can carry weapons on campus. The policy is effective immediately.

David Gross, a local constitutional attorney who helped draft Minnesota’s new conceal-and-carry legislation, said the policy disregards state law and the University could face a lawsuit because of it.

The law allows universities to only prohibit students and employees from carrying guns.

Gross called the regents’ approval of the policy an act of self-righteousness and arrogance.

“Ultimately (the regents) are questioning the power of the Legislature and the ability of the Legislature,” he said.

Gross said not only is the policy possibly illegal, but it could also create problems when the University goes to the Legislature for funding.

“There are consequences when you thumb your nose at the Legislature,” Gross said.

University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said the policy is legally on “solid ground” because of the institution’s constitutional autonomy. The University is granted the power to govern itself by the state’s constitution, he said.

“(The law) doesn’t deal specifically with the University,” Rotenberg said.

Despite potential conflicts with the state law, University President Bob Bruininks called the policy “common sense” and said most students and employees already expect the campus to be gun free.

Gross and Regent Peter Bell said the conflict over the policy’s legality could have been avoided.

Gross said the authors of the legislation asked the University if it wanted to be named in the bill, but it declined.

Bell said the University should have lobbied against the legislation when it was being discussed.

University Provost Christine Maziar said the University was focusing its lobbying efforts on the budget issue.

Because it goes into effect immediately, officials said informing University students, staff and visitors about the policy is imperative.

Rotenberg said signs will be posted in high-traffic areas such as Coffman Union.

Because it was approved quickly, students have not discussed the policy and do not know how the student conduct code affects them, said Jacob Elo, chairman for student representatives to the Board of Regents.

The student conduct code prohibits students from carrying guns and outlines the consequences for students who violate the policy.

Board Chairman David Metzen said the board approved the policy now because it does not meet in August and wanted the ban to be in place for the first football game Aug. 30 at the Metrodome.

Students had mixed reactions to the news of the policy.

Jane Donnelly, a first-year biology student, said she was relieved the policy was passed.

“I find it disconcerting that (the Legislature) passed the gun law in the first place,” she said.

Computer science senior Tim Dielschneider said he felt apathetic.

“I didn’t notice guns on campus before, and I’m sure I won’t notice any now,” he said.

Kari Petrie covers the Board of Regents and administration. She welcomes comments at [email protected]