Florida gun rights group petitions an appellate court to order University of Florida to discontinue enforcing and regulating gun policy, an authority that is specifically reserved for the state legislature.
“Each student that attends the university that owns a gun – their rights are being violated,” said Eric J. Friday, lead counsel for Florida Carry, Inc., the state’s largest independent gun rights organization with more than 12,000 members. “Prohibitions from having a gun in their home are not allowed by the Florida Constitution, by the U.S. Supreme Court or any other court in this country.”
Friday said Florida University students are being denied their constitutional right to possess a firearm in their home as affirmed in the Heller and McDonald decisions.
“Even if a student resides off-campus with a family, as long as the university owns the property, the entire family is prohibited from possessing a firearm in their home,” he said. “The university can own housing off-campus between two privately owned properties so that the people on either side can have firearms, but the people living in the middle cannot.”
The University of Florida nicknamed “Florida Gators” is the third largest university in the state by population and is the eighth largest single-campus university in the United States.
Florida Carry Executive Director Sean Caranna said the courts have been very clear in observing that citizens have a right to keep a functional firearm in their home and a functional firearm in their car. “UF is severely limiting students to have functional firearms as is provided for by state law.”
Florida Carry filed a lawsuit against UF in January for not sufficiently amending their university policies to be in compliance with Florida firearm statutes, he said.
When a University of North Florida student was not permitted to store her firearm in her vehicle pursuant to school policy Florida Carry sued the university and was successful on appeal, he said. The December 2013 ruling said: The legislature has preempted UNF from independently regulating firearms.
Although this decision confirms what is clear in Article 1, Sec. 8 of the Florida Constitution that reserves to the legislature the exclusive authority to regulate the manner of bearing arms, UF continues to publish “Possession and Use of Firearms” regulations in violation of the law, he said. “UF left most of their policies in place, with only a footnote that they intend to comply with the ruling of the court.”
The Florida legislature specifically allows licensed persons to carry or store firearms in a vehicle for lawful purposes and specifically allows a person without a license to carry a firearm other than a handgun anywhere in a private vehicle, said Florida Carry in their complaint.
“There is no basis for any rule or regulation regarding firearms by UF no matter how well intentioned or reasonable where the legislature has expressly preempted such rules and regulations,” said the complaint.
Caranna, who in 2012 was the recipient of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Defender of Liberty Award, said any public college or university which attempts to restrict the statutory and fundamental right to keep and bear arms in Florida is subject to enforcement actions by organizations such as Florida Carry. “In addition to enforcing the clearly established right of students to lawfully store functional firearms in their personal vehicles on campus, Florida Carry seeks to protect the right to possess firearms and other defensive weapons in the home.”
A circuit court judge in Alachua County dismissed the case last week after hearing UF’s motion for summary judgment, said Friday. “We plan to appeal the decision to the First District Court of Appeal the same court that ruled in our favor in Florida Carry, Inc. v. University of North Florida.”