University of Missouri associate professor of law Royce de R. Barondes has placed himself at the forefront of the gun rights debate with a lawsuit challenging the ban on guns on campuses in the state. The lawsuit follows the gunning down of history professor Ethan Schmidt on the Delta State University campus. Schmidt was unarmed and Barondes does not intend to go so easily, it appears.
Barondes has a concealed carry permit and reportedly “teaches a course on firearms law.”
At issue is Amendment 5 of the state constitution which was passed in 2014 and declares the right to keep and bear arms “unalienable” and imposes a “strict scrutiny” test for any prohibition against carrying guns for self-defense. That right is clearly in conflict with the University of Missouri bans on “the possession of firearms on university property . . . except in regularly approved programs or by university agents or employees in the line of duty.” Yet, a conflict does not mean that it is unconstitutional. The university could still prevail under a strict scrutiny analysis, though the test is the most difficult to satisfy.
The case could present some interesting factual and causal questions. Various states have allowed concealed carry on campuses. These include Utah (across the state), Colorado (at the two Colorado State University campuses — in Fort Collins and Pueblo and 14 Colorado community colleges), Mississippi, and Idaho. This will allow the challengers to cite no significant increase in violence as a counter argument to the rationale for the ban. The challengers have also cited studies by the National Academy of Sciences and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center showing no causal connection between conceal carry and increased violence.
The universities could argue that the presence of guns is inimical to the environment of academic exchange, creating fears and anxiety for some students and faculty. The counter argument is that this is a constitutional right, like free speech, and that preference of some to bar the right is not sufficient to satisfy a strict scrutiny test.
Both sides will argue that they are fulfilling the motto of Ole Mizzou: Salus populi suprema lex esto (“Let the Welfare of the People be the Supreme Law”)
What do you think?