Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has opined that a University of Virginia policy against firearms on campus may not be legally enforced.
The university flatly prohibits firearms on its property, with the exception of police officers. Emmett Hanger, a state senator, asked Cuccinelli whether the policy was legal.
In a July 1 response [pdf], Cuccinelli replies that it is not. The story was previously reported in the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
Virginians are legally permitted to carry weapons openly, as well as to wear concealed firearms. The state’s open-carry law is one of the nation’s most permissive.
In drawing his conclusion, Cuccinelli reviews a recent state Supreme Court case. That ruling upheld a regulation at George Mason University that forbids firearms inside campus buildings and at events.
Why, then, can’t U-Va.’s policy be enforced?
Two reasons, Cuccinelli says.
First, the U-Va. policy includes not just buildings but open spaces. Cuccinelli reasons that the George Mason regulation is defensible because it is restricted to “sensitive areas” where students might be found. The U-Va. policy, in his view, is too broad, including “virtually all University buildings and property.”
Therefore, in Cuccinelli’s view, the university has no right to stop people from carrying firearms openly on its entire campus. For the policy to be legal, it would have to be tailored to restrict people from carrying firearms openly “within certain buildings.”
The second problem, he writes, is that U-Va.’s gun ban is a policy and not a regulation. As such, it does not carry the force of law.
Where does that leave the university’s gun ban? It’s fine, Cuccinelli reasons, as long as it doesn’t conflict with any actual law.
“I am compelled to conclude that under its policies, the University lawfully may prohibit persons from openly carrying a firearm in the buildings that are subject to the policy,” he writes.
In other words: Visitors to U-Va. may carry concealed firearms anywhere on the grounds, and if they are outdoors, they may carry them openly.
University officials said they are reviewing their policy in light of the opinion.
“The safety and security of our more than 20,000 students and 10,000 employees —in addition to the safety of the more than 10,000 patients and visitors who come to the University each day—are of utmost importance to us,” the university said in a statement, alluding both to the academic operation and the affiliated medical center. “Any steps we consider in our review of the opinion will certainly take that responsibility into account.”