Oregon appeals court throws out university gun ban

Oregon appeals court throws out university gun ban

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon University System cannot ban guns on college campuses, the state Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday in a decision that overturns a decades-old prohibition.

A three-judge panel found that only the Legislature can regulate the possession of firearms under a 1995 state law intended to prevent cities from creating their own gun bans.

Gun-rights advocates cheered the decision as university administrators insisted campuses have safety systems to alert students and staff to potential threats.

"Our greatest concern is for the safety of our students and the entire campus community," Chancellor George Pernsteiner said in a statement. He said the universities will review their legal options.

The now-defunct gun ban was developed in the 1970s and modified in 1991 after the state enacted new regulations for concealed weapons, said Di Saunders, a university system spokeswoman.

The Oregon Firearms Educational Foundations, a gun rights group, challenged it after a Western Oregon University student was sanctioned for carrying a gun on campus in 2009, said Kevin Starrett, the group's executive director.

The gun ban "was emblematic of all the bureaucrats across the state who just spit in the face of the law and make up their own rules, and in doing that cause great damage to people who are doing nothing wrong," Starrett said.

The universities prohibited guns under an administrative rule, a quasi-legislative power assigned to state agencies. But appeals court judges Darleen Ortega, Timothy Sercombe and Ellen Rosenblum found that the OUS rulemaking authority was pre-empted by a state law that assigns only to the Legislature the authority to regulate the possession, sale and use of firearms.

The judges found that "this particular rule would seem on its face to be the type of regulation that was intended to be pre-empted," even if lawmakers didn't specifically contemplate whether the law might cover a state agency's administrative rules.

State lawmakers this year considered banning guns on campuses but did not advance the idea.

Because the gun ban was found to violate state law, the judges did not evaluate whether it also violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects gun rights.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.