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Legislators target U. gun ban

They say only lawmakers can set gun policy

The University of Utah has "no separate constitutional authority" to regulate firearms on its campus, according to a brief filed by legislative attorneys.

Utah Supreme Court justices last month asked the Legislature to participate in the ongoing gun debate, which has pitted the U. against Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

The Legislature's friend-of-the-court brief was filed Oct. 8, and lawmakers now have copies of the brief, which received no discussion Tuesday — even though it was an item on the agenda of the Legislative Management Committee meeting.

Attorneys for the U. are waiting for a response from justices to a request for more time to respond to the brief. Both sides are awaiting an opinion from the Supreme Court.

The legislative brief says, contrary to what U. officials believe, the Utah Constitution does not allow for "institutional autonomy" at the U.

As for the U.'s argument for academic freedom, three legislative attorneys wrote there is "no basis in constitutional, statutory or case law that would justify the university enacting firearms policy . . . ."

Further, the concept of academic freedom does not exist under Utah law and, according to the brief, it does not apply in the manner suggested by U. officials.

In the brief's conclusion, the attorneys ask justices to overturn a decision by 3rd District Judge Robert Hilder, who ruled the U. has a right to enforce its 25-year-old gun policy.

That policy prohibits U. staff, faculty and students from actually bringing guns on campus, which in effect trumps the state's concealed-weapons permit laws.

U. officials also have thrown into their argument issues of mixing youth, personal conflicts and weapons.

The 2004 Legislature passed a bill that reinforces the notion that only lawmakers can establish gun policy in Utah. The U. Board of Trustees, however, elected in April to continue enforcing the school's ban on guns until the Supreme Court rules. Some legislators believe the issue eventually will land in federal court.


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com