The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld a state administrative prohibition on firearms at George Mason University.
The ruling comes in response to an appeal after Fairfax Circuit Judge Michael McWeeny ruled the regulation does not infringe on the right to keep and bear arms.
George Mason University (GMU) has a policy which states:
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. Entry upon the aforementioned university property in violation of this prohibition is expressly forbidden.
The court concentrated especially on the language of the previous Supreme Court Heller case regarding “sensitive” locations such as schools or government buildings. The court found that, schools being considered “sensitive,” the ban was constitutional and held that “GMU is a sensitive place and that 8 VAC § 35-60-20 is constitutional and does not violate Article I, § 13 of the Constitution of Virginia or the Second Amendment of the federal Constitution.”
However, the ruling is not an absolute ban on weapons. As stated in the ruling, “the regulation is tailored, restricting weapons only in those places where people congregate and are most vulnerable – inside campus buildings and at campus events. Individuals may still carry or possess weapons on the open grounds of GMU, and in other places on campus not enumerated in the regulation.”
“Students and faculty cannot carry inside academic buildings, or inside large gatherings like stadiums, but it doesn’t appear to impact general members of the public,” stated Kurt Mueller, an attorney with Students for Concealed Carry. “They can carry on campus grounds or, for example in their cars. The regulation isn’t part of the statute, so there’s no criminal penalties attached to carrying at all.”
Mueller also notes that an opinion issued from the Attorney-General in 2006 also deals with campus carry.
“It is my opinion that the governing boards of Virginia’s public colleges and universities may not impose a general prohibition on the carrying of concealed weapons by permitted individuals,” the opinion states. “Pursuant to specific grants of statutory authority, however, it is my opinion that colleges and universities may regulate the conduct of students and employees to prohibit them from carrying concealed weapons on campus.”
Mueller said today’s ruling won’t be appealed to the Supreme Court because there’s no issue of national significance to be ruled on.
“The ruling is still an affront to student rights,” said David Burnett, president of Students for Concealed Carry. “The court specifically acknowledges that the rules center around people who are most vulnerable, and ignores the right of the people to protect and defend themselves in times of vulnerability!
“Virginia Tech officials blocked a concealed carry law shortly in 2006, saying it would help students feel safe. We know how that worked out for them. Feeling safe isn’t the same as being safe, and disarming professors, ex-military and other responsible citizens only emboldens criminals.”
Director of Public Relations
Students for Concealed Carry