A Florida appeals court ruled on Tuesday that state universities do not have the power to ban law-abiding gun owners from keeping loaded firearms in their vehicles while on campus.
In a 12-3 decision, the District Court of Appeal for the First District in Tallahassee overturned the university’s policy banning guns in parking lots, siding with Alexandria Lainez, a member of Florida Carry Inc. and business student at the University of North Florida, who sued to have the ban repealed in October 2011.
Lainez challenged the ban on the basis that Florida has preemption laws that prevent cities, towns and other entities, including state universities and colleges, from regulating the possession of firearms.
“The Legislature has declared all regulation of firearms to be preempted by the Legislature,” the complaint stated, “and has determined that students should be allowed to possess and/or store firearms in private automobiles on university campuses, and that there is no need for additional regulation of firearms by UNF.”
Eric Friday, the attorney representing Lainez and Florida Carry Inc., told The Associated Press that the court had correctly reviewed “the facts of this case” and came to the right conclusion.
“The university does not have the right to pass rules and regulations about who may have firearms,” Friday said.
However, not all the judges on the panel felt this way. In his dissent, Judge Philip Padovano argued that the majority ruling “defies common sense.”
“These opinions pursue differing legal theories but they all arrive at the same conclusion,” wrote Padovano. “That a state university is powerless to prohibit students from bringing firearms to school. This remarkable conclusion is not supported in the law and, with due respect for my colleagues, I believe that it defies common sense.”
“State universities,” Padovano continued, “have independent constitutional authority to adopt rules and regulations governing the conduct of their students. Because the regulation at issue in this case falls directly within the scope of that authority, it is not subject to legislative preemption.”
Under current state law, it is illegal for one to possess or carry a firearm onto university and college campuses. However, that the law does not necessarily extend to firearms that are left in a private vehicles.
State law does however include an exception for school districts (K-12), which are given the authority to ban guns in vehicles. To clarify, the appeals court ruled that universities and campuses are not technically considered to be school districts, therefore, they do not have the power to ban guns in vehicles on campuses.
UPDATE: I had a chance to ask Ms. Lainez some questions via Facebook. Below is our brief Q&A:
S.H. Blannelberry: First off, what was your initial reaction to the ruling?
Ms. Lainez: I was very happy with the ruling in my favor. They had the facts and made the right decision with those.
S.H. Blannelberry: Second, do you consider this a settled matter or do you fear that the Legislature will try to rewrite the law so that universities and colleges are permitted to ban guns on campuses in private vehicles?
Ms. Lainez: At this time, I do not know the Legislature’s intentions for the upcoming session and therefore cannot foresee what they may do.
S.H. Blannelberry: Third, overall, how do you see the fight for campus carry playing out in the years ahead? Will there come a time in Florida when students, faculty and staff are allowed to carry firearms inside classrooms and on campus grounds, apart from just being allowed to leave guns in their cars?
Ms. Lainez: I am not sure what will happen in the future in regards to campus carry. I am a firm proponent of the second amendment as we deserve the right to protect ourselves and family.
S.H. Blannelberry: Lastly, what’s your favorite EDC firearm?
Ms. Lainez: MY EDC is a Glock 26. I use one of the best holsters that I’ve ever come across, my Panther concealment holster.
To add on, I feel very strongly regarding our rights and will continue to fight to protect them. I think education and gun safety is very important. We deserve the right to protect ourselves.