[JURIST] The Utah Supreme Court [official website] ruled on Friday that a University of Utah [official website] policy banning firearms on campus violates state law. In a 4-1 opinion [PDF], the court rejected the university's argument that as an autonomous entity under Article X of the state constitution [text], it could disregard state law that conflicted with its internal academic affairs. Under Utah Code 63-98-102 [text], a state entity may not restrict the possession of firearms on public or private property unless it has a special statutory exception.
The university sued state Attorney General Mark Shurtleff [official profile] when he issued a formal opinion [text] in 2001 stating that the law applied to the university, which has banned firearms possession on campus for over thirty years. Shurtleff suggested that the university apply to lawmakers for an exception, but at present, it plans to take the case back to federal court [university press release], where it will argue that the First and Fourteenth Amendments grant it academic freedom to protect its students and the learning environment. While this claim is pending, the ban on the university's 44,000 students, faculty and staff is still in effect. AP has more. The Salt Lake Tribune has local coverage.