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1st DCA upholds UF policy against guns in student housing

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Judge Joseph Lewis Jr. of the 1st District Court of Appeal dealt a blow to advocates of so-called “campus carry” Friday when he affirmed a lower court’s decision in favor of the University of Florida against the gun rights group Florida Carry. It took UF to court over the school’s policy prohibiting guns in campus-owned housing and property.

Florida Carry had argued that UF President Bernie Machen‘s decision to keep guns out of campus housing was “expressly and impliedly preempted” by the Second Amendment and state law, which “protect[s] the rights of the people to keep and bear operable arms within their homes, regardless of ownership by a public entity,” the appellants argued.

Lewis cited an exception in a state gun law which exempts people using weapons or firearms in violation of a state statute governing publicly owned property in negating the substance of Florida Carry’s claim.

Lewis also cited the U.S. Supreme Court majority in District of Columbia v. Heller who wrote “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions … or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.”

Moreover, Lewis found the gun rights group had insufficient standing to appeal, as no actual resident of UF housing could be shown to have been deprived of their right to possess a gun there.

“[A]ttempting to adjudicate the individual claims of student-members – without knowing anything about their specific housing situations or the context of their living arrangements – would amount to rendering a declaratory judgment where the necessary facts are unknown,” Lewis wrote.

“Too little is known factually to make what is essentially an as-applied adjudication of how the complex web of Florida’s firearms laws, with an evolving state and federal overlay of constitutional rights as to keeping and bearing firearms, operates in actual practice as to a specific housing situation,” Lewis wrote.

State courts will revisit those issues, however, if a pair of bills circulating in the Legislature are approved.

The proposals would delete the exceptions for college campuses currently in state statute.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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