Thursday, March 20, 2008

Clarifying My Position on the AG's Opinion

I've a few questions about the Attorney General's Official Opinion on College Carry.

It is well established in Virginia that a university, through its board, "‘has not only the powers expressly conferred upon it, but it also has the implied power to do whatever is reasonably necessary to effectuate the powers expressly granted.’" This broad authority does not, however, supersede statutory or case law, public policy, or explicit statements of the General Assembly regarding specific topics.

The powers expressly conferred and possessed by the governing body of an educational institution include the authority "[t]o establish rules and regulations for the conduct of students while attending such institution" and "[t]o establish rules and regulations for the employment of professors, teachers, instructors, and all other employees and provide for their dismissal for failure to abide by such rules and regulations."

The University of Virginia has promulgated a "Security and Firearms Policy," which provides that "[t]he possession, storage, or use of any kind of ammunition, firearms, fireworks, explosives, air rifles and air pistols on University-owned or operated property, without the expressed written permission of the University Police, is prohibited."

It is my opinion that the safe operation of the campus allows regulation of, or under limited circumstances, prohibition of, firearms by any persons attending events on campus, visiting dormitories or classroom buildings, attending specific events as invitees, or under any circumstance permitted by law. The universal prohibition of firearms by properly permitted persons other than students, faculty, administration, or employees, however, is not allowed under law. A board of visitors has responsibility for the protection of the students enrolled at their university. At the same time, the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and by Article I, § 13, of the Constitution of Virginia, which protect all citizens, may not be summarily dismissed for transient reasons.

In light of the General Assembly’s specific statements regarding the limits of carrying concealed handguns and the grant of authority to colleges and universities to regulate the conduct of students and employees, it is my opinion that neither a board of visitors nor a president of a public college or university may infer authority from its enabling legislation to adopt a universal prohibition of carrying concealed handguns by holders with valid permits.

It is clear from the context of the opinion that the AG did not intend to support an unlimited blanket prohibition of concealed carry by permit holding students. He cites UVA's policy which allows for concealed carry with explicit written permission of the campus police. UVA Wise had no such policy. It's not regulation, it's a blanket prohibition dismissing Constitutional rights for transient reasons.

Also note that AG opinions are non-binding.

He fails to address the pre-emption law or Dillon's Rule.

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