LEXINGTON – A graduate student at the University of Kentucky is suing the college after being fired for having a firearm locked in his car. Michael Mitchell, a member of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, is currently pursuing a masters degree in epidemiology at the University. Mitchell was employed by the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center, working as an anesthesia technician in the operating room and assisting with thousands of surgeries in his 7 months of employment.
In April 2009, Mitchell was approached by campus police who received an anonymous tip about a firearm allegedly in his possession. Mitchell cooperated with authorities for a search of his locker to prove he had no firearm in his possession. He then explained to police that he had a firearm locked in his car, parked more than a mile away in a lot maintained by the college.
“At first they called me into the supervisor’s office and told me I was being suspended without pay, pending an investigation,” Mitchell told SCCC. “I thought it was good because then they could investigate and hear both sides.”
An officer escorted Mitchell to his car, where he cooperated with the officer in locating the firearm to lock it in the trunk. The officer’s superior directed him to confiscate the firearm. “If I had known they were going to confiscate it, I wouldn’t have given them permission to get the gun and lock it in the trunk,” Mitchell stated. “They wouldn’t have had a reason to search my car over a simple suspension.”
Less than a week later, Mitchell was asked to come to the hospital, where supervisors informed him that he had been terminated.
“I was distraught. I refused to sign statements because I had done nothing wrong. I didn’t have the gun on me, and still don’t understand. If anyone else had been on campus property and legally armed, they wouldn’t be penalized.”
The University even tried to deny Mitchel unemployment benefits but lost.
Kentucky law states, “No person or organization, public or private, shall prohibit a person licensed to carry a concealed deadly weapon from possessing a firearm, ammunition, or both, or other deadly weapon in his or her vehicle in compliance with the provisions of [Kentucky concealed carry statutes]. Any attempt by a person or organization, public or private, to violate the provisions of this subsection may be the subject of an action for appropriate relief or for damages in a Circuit Court or District Court of competent jurisdiction.”
“I was heartbroken to lose the job. I loved the job and loved working with the physicians. I want to go to medical school, and UK is a teaching hospital where you can learn from the doctors.”
The complaint, filed in Fayette County Circuit Court, quotes the law and seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages. (Click here to read the complaint)
“Mr. Mitchell was involved in thousands of surgeries, and entrusted with the lives of everyone from minor procedure patients to major trauma patients,” said David Burnett, a spokesman for SCCC. “The fact that the University used his ignorance of campus policy and his willingness to cooperate with authorities to make him an example for anyone who knowingly or unknowingly violates their rules shows how vindictive and out of control the college is, and how far they will go to deny the right to self-defense.”
Students for Concealed Carry on Campus strongly condemns a campus policy that denies students, faculty and staff the same right to defensive carry of firearms that they have off-campus. The gun-free policies enforced only by signs and a few thinly-spread security officers serve only to stack the odds in favor of criminals and deny citizens the right to defend themselves.
Stay tuned to the website for further updates on this vital case.
For media inquiries, contact David Burnett