Florida Court Tells Public University It Can’t Ban Guns In Cars

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A Florida appeals court has ruled that a State university in Jacksonville can’t ban guns from being stored in cars parked on campus. That may be a small victory for the 2nd Amendment, but it is a victory.

The Florida 1st District Court of Appeal delivered a 12-3 ruling Tuesday that overturned a circuit judge’s earlier decision to throw out a lawsuit brought jointly by student Alexandra Lainez and Florida Carry, Inc. The original suit, brought by Lainez against the University of North Florida, argued the Florida Legislature, and not the university, holds sole power under the State’s Constitution to regulate whether firearms can be carried on campus at public universities.

Circuit Judge L. Page Haddock had thrown out the lawsuit at the university’s request, but Lainez and Florida Carry appealed, noting that Florida law grants only K-12 school districts the power to regulate on-campus weapons.

The 1st District Court sided with Lainez, with Justice L. Clayton Roberts writing in the majority opinion:

We hold that the legislature has not delegated its authority under the Florida Constitution to regulate the manner of bearing arms to the state universities and reverse the orders on appeal.

…There are certain places where firearms can be legally prohibited. But the Legislature has recognized that a citizen who is going to be in one of these places should be able to keep a firearm securely encased within his or her vehicle.

Judge Scott Makar interjected the protections of the State (but not the U.S.) Constitution in his consenting opinion:

In Florida, the constitutional right of the people to keep and bear arms in defense of themselves is older than the State itself. …It is a personal, individual liberty, entitled to protection like other constitutional rights. Like any civil right established in the state or federal constitutions, the legislative branch may choose to pass laws designed to facilitate its exercise or protect against its infringement, which Florida’s legislature has done repeatedly over the past fifty years on the specific topic at issue: safely-secured firearms in motor vehicles.

The Florida Legislature had set the groundwork for Tuesday’s ruling as early as 1987, when it passed a law prohibiting municipal or county governments from instituting gun control laws more restrictive than the State’s own gun laws. But that law didn’t have a workable enforcement mechanism, and it went unheeded by many local governments.

Then, in 2011, the Legislature added teeth to the existing law. From BizPac Review:

In 2011, the Legislature passed another law containing a series of threatening local jurisdictions or agencies with fines against the agency heads, removal from office for elected officials and allowing for personal damages up to $100,000 for violations, Friday said.

When that law passed, most local governments changed their laws to comply before it came into effect Oct 1, Friday said. UNF and some other agencies didn’t.

The university’s insistence on doubling down on its gun-control sovereignty proved its undoing in the Lainez case. UNF had a standing policy that banned all firearms on campus.

According to university officials, UNF has no intention of complying with the district court’s ruling until the school decides whether to appeal the case.

Here’s more from the BizPac Review story:

In an emailed statement Wednesday, UNF Associate Director for Public Relations Joanna Norris wrote that the university is still reviewing its options on whether to appeal the case. Until it makes that decision, she wrote, the university’s policy prohibiting weapons on campus will remain in effect.

[Florida Carry attorney Eric Friday] said that means the university intends to continue breaking the law.

“In other words, despite the express, well-reasoned opinion of this court, they intend to continue violating students’ rights until they have to comply,” he said.

It will be interesting to see whether the university openly violates the appeals ruling if it learns that Lainez, a 24-year-old mother who’s held a concealed carry permit for three years, is back on campus with firearms in her car.

“I felt that it was important to stand up for it and see it through so that the students are allowed to have the opportunity,” Lainez, who commutes to UNF 30 minutes each way, told Jacksonville’s Fox 30 News. “There are many times that if I do go to campus, you’re leaving late, very early, traveling. You never know what could happen, campus to home or vice versa. So it’s important to be able to carry your gun when you go with you. It’s something I feel is protection.”

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.