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Justices Will Not Hear Challenge To UF Gun Policy

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

In a victory for the University of Florida, the state Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take up a dispute about whether guns should be allowed in university housing.
The Supreme Court issued a brief order saying it would not hear an appeal by the gun-rights group Florida Carry, Inc. The decision let stand a 1st District Court of Appeal ruling in October that upheld a ban on firearms in residence halls and other school housing.

As is customary, the Supreme Court did not explain its reasons for declining to take up the case.

Florida Carry Inc., which filed the lawsuit in 2014 against the university and then-university President Bernie Machen, argued that people have a constitutional right to possess guns in their homes, including in university housing.

"While ... the Florida Constitution does allow for regulating the manner of bearing arms by law, nothing in the Florida Constitution allows the defendants to ban the possession, or keeping, of firearms in one's home, nor does it allow a statutory interpretation that (leads) to a result that violates the core of the Second Amendment,'' Florida Carry attorneys Eric Friday and Lesley McKinney argued in a February brief asking the Supreme Court to hear the case.

Also, the brief argued that the Supreme Court should determine whether the 1st District Court of Appeal "erred in lumping all university owned housing together, or whether distinctions should be made between the various types of housing owned by defendants, including on- and off-campus university owned housing, and single family versus multi-family housing."

But in a brief filed last month, university attorney Barry Richard offered several legal reasons that the Supreme Court should not wade into the dispute.

"The decision below (in the 1st District Court of Appeal) presents no material departure from, or extension of, Florida or federal law, and no issue of sufficient magnitude to justify review by this (Supreme) Court,'' the brief said. "Even if the (Supreme) Court were inclined to address the constitutional issues raised by Florida Carry, this case is a poor vehicle with which to do so. The constitutional issues received scant attention by the parties and minimal consideration by the district court, which notes 'we are unaware of (Florida Carry's) members' specific housing situations.' "

Florida Carry filed the lawsuit against the Gainesville university after winning another gun-rights case involving the University of North Florida. In that case, the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that universities cannot bar students from storing guns in their cars while on campus.

But in the University of Florida case, the appeals court pointed to a state law that bars possession of guns on school property, including college and university campuses. It weighed that against another law that says people have a right to possess guns in their homes.

"Under appellant's (Florida Carry's) interpretation, the Legislature intended, without specifically stating so, to prohibit firearms on school property except for any place that might be considered a student's home while on school property,'' said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Joseph Lewis. "Reaching that result, however, requires a strained interpretation of the statutes involved."