Law Prof and Shurtleff Shoot It Out Over Guns on Campus Debate

Putting his mouth where his litigation is, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff came to campus yesterday to debate the issue of guns on campus with Law Professor John Flynn.

Last December, Shurtleff said, as a public university, the U was violating state law by prohibiting students and employees with permits to carry concealed weapons from bringing their guns to campus. Categorically opposed to the idea, the U administration filed a “friendly lawsuit” against the attorney general’s office in March.

The attorney general is responsible for upholding, defending and executing Utah law, Shurtleff said before a packed Moot Courtroom in the College of Law, not making it up. Shurtleff cited the Utah Constitution, which stipulates the right to bear arms in the security of self or others shall not be infringed.

“The U is a creation of state government,” Shurtleff said. “I believe [the gun law] ought to be enforced.”

Flynn described the Utah Constitution as “poorly drafted” and the gun clause “ridiculous.” The state Legislature’s meddling with the U’s gun policy violates the university’s charter, which gives control of U property to the state Board of Regents, not the Legislature.

Just as private property owners can legally forbid people from carrying guns onto their property?business owners can forbid their employees from bringing guns to work, which Shurtleff gave as an example?the Regents should be able to prohibit students and employees from bringing guns to campus, Flynn said.

Both debaters referred to the incident at Appalachian University in Virginia where a law student shot and killed several people at the law school including its dean.

Appalachian has a no tolerance for guns on campus policy, but that policy didn’t prevent the bloodbath.

“Criminals don’t obey policy,” Shurtleff said. “They’re not going to obey your little law.”

Washington, D.C., has the most restrictive gun laws in the United States, but continues to be the murder capital of the world, Shurtleff said. He asked why those in favor of gun control always go after law-abiding citizens.

“None of you have the right to fear a law-abiding student carrying a concealed weapon,” Shurtleff said. “You are not safer on campus because of that law.”

Flynn said law-abiding students would also abide by U policy.

“I will not teach a class where anyone is authorized to carry a gun,” Flynn said, threatening to resign if the U loses the lawsuit. Should the U lose the suit, he predicts it will lead to the “destruction of the university,” discouraging students and faculty nationwide from applying to work here. He also predicted allowing concealed weapons on campus would “lead to an exodus of faculty away” from the U.

Outside of the criminal context of firearms, Flynn said keeping guns off campus limits students’ ability to commit suicide. He cited six suicides in recent years, all of which were successfully performed with guns. Suicides, though, have nothing to do with concealed weapon carriers, both debaters acknowledged.

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