Court ruling could open door to guns on university campuses

8:10 PM, Dec 11, 2013   |    comments
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USF student with a concealed weapons permit takes part in empty holster protest on campus in April 2012.
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Tampa, Florida -- USF officials say they're not sure if the court ruling will trigger changes on campus here, but they're watching closely what happens next.

This case started last year with University of North Florida student Alexandria Lainez. The commuter student wanted to keep her gun in her car.

"As a single mom I do travel from school and I feel it's important for myself and many other students who are also concealed license holders to be able to carry our guns when we go to school," she told Jacksonville TV station WTLV.

A gun rights group, Florida Carry, took up her cause and challenged UNF's rules that prohibit guns anywhere on campus, including parked cars and on campus.

On Tuesday, the First District Court of Appeal ruled against UNF and in favor of Lainez and Florida Carry. Judges said that under Florida law, universities do not have the right to make such rules.

USF has a very similar gun policy, but don't expect any quick changes. USF Police Spokesman Lt. Chris Daniel says USF attorneys are waiting to see what kind of action comes from the courts and state lawmakers.

"We continue to enforce the statute as its written. We are aware of the recent appellate decision and we continue to monitor that situation and watch what happens with that," Daniel told 10 News over the phone.

The gun rights debate is nothing new to USF. Last April, some students with concealed weapons permits staged an empty holster protest. They'd like state law changed so they could walk about campus with a gun.

As expected, there are mixed thoughts at USF about the prospect of guns in parked cars.

Staff member Deedra Hickman, who grew up using guns in Colorado, says she wouldn't mind a change in policy, as long as the guns were secured.

"I'm okay with it, but I feel very strongly about people keeping their guns locked up. I have a gun myself and I've got a safe," she said.

But USF senior Jackie Coronada says she feels safer with a strict "no guns" policy.

"I would not be happy with that happening here at USF," she said. "I like it the way it is and I think it should stay that way."

A spokesperson for UNF says their attorneys are still reviewing the ruling and that there has been no decision yet on whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

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