Court: University of Michigan can ban guns on campus

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — The University of Michigan has prevailed again in a lawsuit challenging a campus ban on guns.

In a 2-1 decision, the state appeals court said the university can regulate the possession of guns and its 2001 ban doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution. The ruling affirms a decision by the Michigan Court of Claims in a lawsuit filed by 25-year-old Ann Arbor resident Joshua Wade.

He’s a concealed carry licensee who frequents downtown and didn’t want to become an “accidental criminal” by crossing onto UM property, which is not clearly defined.

Wade — who packs a pistol identical to one formerly carried by Navy SEAL special warfare operators and is not a UM student — filed for a waiver from UM’s rule, which bans guns on campus. When he was denied, he sued in 2015, saying the university’s policy conflicts with state law and the U.S. Constitution.

Wade pointed a dissenting opinion written by one of the appeals judges, and said he was still considering whether to proceed to the Michigan Supreme Court.

“We respect the decision of the court of appeals,” Wade said Wednesday. “But it doesn’t change our beliefs that we do have the correct argument, which is that UM cannot enact an ordinance banning firearms.”

The court also says the Ann Arbor school and its other campuses aren’t covered by a state law that prevents local governments from putting limits on guns.

UM officials hailed the decision.

“We are pleased that the court has upheld the university’s reasonable limits regarding weapons on our campuses,” UM spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said. “This is an important component to ensuring the safety of all members of our community, including students, faculty, staff, patients and the hundreds of thousands of other people who visit our campuses each year.”

In his dissenting opinion, Judge David Sawyer said the university is exceeding its authority by adopting its own restrictions.

Many college campuses provide places for students who are hunters or training for a career in public safety to store firearms.

But university leaders say concealed firearms are a different issue and the combination of stress, alcohol, varied maturity levels and suicide risks make college campuses the wrong place for concealed weapons.

All University of Michigan properties are gun-free for students, staff and the public, unless a waiver is granted by the public safety department.

The appeals court decision was dated Tuesday but released Wednesday.

Associated Press contributed.