After the story on the legal questions raised by the two Gonzaga University seniors disciplined for violating school policy by keeping weapons in school-owned housing was put to bed Tuesday, Sirens and Gavels received a phone call from Lewis Wasserman, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Wasserman practiced law in New York for 20 years before joining the faculty in Arlington and has written extensively on the subject of student's rights on college campuses. In January 2012, he published a lengthy look at the gun rights of students in the wake of the Supreme Court's decisions in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010), two decisions that clarified if and when the government could regulate the Second Amendment rights of citizens.
Wasserman agreed with several experts who said Gonzaga, as a private entity, is on fairly firm legal ground by banning firearms from properties they own. However, he said that a brief glance at Washington's relatively extensive gun control laws could create an implied right for citizens to carry concealed weapons in certain private places, including college campuses.
State law prohibits anyone from carrying firearms on the grounds of state elementary or secondary schools, though there is no mention of higher learning institutions. However, as reported in the article appearing in Wednesday's Spokesman-Review, the two major public universities - University of Washington and Washington State University - have policies in place that also ban deadly weapons on their property, as does Gonzaga.
“The odds are the kids would lose the case, I think,” Wasserman said Tuesday night.
Wasserman said the most effective strategy for students wishing to carry weapons on campus would be to lobby the state Legislature, whose laws could supersede the policies of universities. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports several legislative bodies have either already passed such measures or are considering laws that would enable concealed carry on campuses (including Utah, Kansas and Wisconsin).
Wasserman called the Gonzaga case a “very, very interesting issue,” but said the dispute would be more interesting legally if a similar event took place at a state school.
“It's a much closer question,” Wasserman said of the hypothetical situation on public grounds. “(The school) may still win, but you could put up the good fight.”