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USF bows to court ruling, lifts ban on guns in cars

By Jerome R. Stockfisch
Published: January 6, 2014 Updated: January 7, 2014 at 08:11 AM
Benjamin Larrabee, a University of South Florida student, takes part in a protest against the weapons policy in April. FILE PHOTO

TAMPA — The University of South Florida has lifted a ban on the storage of firearms in vehicles, falling in line with a court ruling that universities do not have the authority to regulate guns on campus.

The decision appeased gun rights activists who threatened to sue USF. Still, they say the university continued to overstep its bounds with some of the language in the new policy.

USF’s original policy prohibited weapons “located anywhere on a USF System campus or facility or at a USF System event, including on one’s person, in a motor vehicle, in an office, in a University residence hall, or other on-campus residence.”

The updated version of Policy 6-009, Weapons on USF System Property, removes the specifics and refers to state law regulating possession of weapons on university campuses.

“They appear to be operating in good faith; however, we do have some concerns regarding the language in the current policy we would like to see corrected,” said Eric Friday, lead council for Florida Carry Inc., a plaintiff in the original suit that overturned such a policy at the University of North Florida.

Friday said he would not file suit against USF, which he had threatened last week, but hoped to continue to work with university lawyers “to try and craft a policy that meets the needs of the school without infringing on the rights of students and visitors.”

The move stems from a lawsuit filed by Florida Carry and a UNF student in Duval Circuit Court. A judge threw out the suit, but an appellate court in Tallahassee took up the case and ruled that the state Legislature has exclusive responsibility for crafting gun policy.

State statute prohibits firearms on college campuses, but the appellate court ruled that individual campus policies banning the weapons in vehicles was a step too far.

USF joins UNF, Florida State University and others who have updated campus policies in the wake of the court ruling.

A policy change was dated Jan. 3 and announced Monday, but administrators continued to tinker with the language Monday.

Students aren’t likely to notice the change in campus policy, and it was “business as usual” as they returned for the spring semester on Monday, said USF Police Lt. Chris Daniel.

“I don’t think it’s going to change the way we do business,” Daniel said. “It’s one of those things we’re going to watch and we’ll just continue to enforce the statute as it is written, and as further changes come up, we’ll look at the policy and adapt to whatever is necessary.”

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