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ODU Moves to Tighten Campus Firearms Ban

By Bill Sizemore - The Virginian-Pilot - September 19, 2011

Reacting to an opinion from Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that holders of concealed-weapon permits may bring their guns into university buildings, Old Dominion University is moving to prohibit them from doing so.

The ODU administration has drafted a regulation for consideration by the university's governing Board of Visitors at its December meeting that would explicitly ban all guns, except those carried by police officers, from campus buildings and sports events.

In a July opinion requested by a state lawmaker, Cuccinelli said a University of Virginia policy banning guns from campus does not apply to holders of concealed-weapon permits.

ODU has a similar policy, as do most Virginia state colleges and universities.

University policies do not override a concealed-weapon permit holder's right to carry his or her gun, Cuccinelli said in his opinion.

However, the attorney general left open an avenue for universities to ban those guns if they wish.

They may do so by enacting a regulation - as opposed to a policy - because, he said, regulations have the force of law.

He cited a recent decision of the state Supreme Court upholding such a regulation at George Mason University. ODU is modeling its proposal on that regulation, which reads:

"Possession or carrying of any weapon by any person, except a police officer, is prohibited on university property in academic buildings, administrative office buildings, student residence buildings, dining facilities, or while attending sporting, entertainment or educational events."

Cuccinelli noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has said the Second Amendment right to bear arms is not unlimited. The high court has said the government may enact "laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings."

The state Supreme Court found that the GMU regulation meets that test.

Cuccinelli suggested, however, that universities can only go so far, pointing out that the state court did not give its blessing to an absolute campus weapons ban.

The court noted that the GMU regulation "is tailored, restricting weapons only in those places where people congregate and are most vulnerable - inside campus buildings and at campus events." Weapons are still allowed, the court said, "on the open grounds of GMU and in other places on campus not enumerated in the regulation."

ODU President John Broderick has declared public safety the university's most pressing issue in the wake of a student's fatal shooting and a string of robberies in neighborhoods adjoining the campus in recent months.

"The Virginia Supreme Court and Virginia's attorney general have stated that a university is a 'sensitive place' where a person's Second Amendment rights could be limited," Jennifer Mullen, an ODU spokeswoman, said by email. "The university is pursuing the proposed regulation to be consistent with what is recommended in both opinions."

A bill to prohibit such regulations was submitted in the 2011 General Assembly but died in a Senate committee.

Original content from The Virginian-Pilot