Gun ban has been pricy battle

U administrators have spent more than $300,000 since 2002 to keep the U’s campus gun-ban policy in place.

The rule, though now suspended, prohibits students, faculty and staff from packing firearms on campus.

The dispute started in 2001 when Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff authored a legal opinion stating that the gun ban violated the state constitution.

U administrators fired back by filing a federal suit the following spring challenging Shurtleff’s opinion-now, almost five years and several hundred thousand dollars later, the dispute continues.

The U has used money from a private endowment to defend the campus weapons policy. The fund is derived from private donations and can be spent at the U president’s discretion.

While the legal battle over the gun issue has not been funded by tuition or student fees, some students think the money has been spent unwisely.

“I think it’s a worthwhile venture to protect the idea of not letting guns on campus, but it seems like an excessive amount (of money), regardless of the source,” said Breanne Miller, a senior in political science and Spanish and president of the U College Democrats.

Brent Tenney, a senior in information systems who leads a student group advocating gun rights, said the U is “wasting money” on a dispute it “never had a prayer of winning.”

Most of the money was spent under the leadership of former University of Utah President Bernard Machen.

Machen is out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

Current University of Utah President Michael Young said that while “litigation is not (his) first choice to solve problems,” he will not “second guess” decisions Machen made while at the U.

Young is currently talking with leaders in the Utah State Legislature about restoring the gun ban.

The campus gun ban was suspended earlier this year after the Utah Supreme Court ruled that the policy violated a 2004 amendment to state law prohibiting the U from banning firearms.

Young originally said the U would enforce the no-gun policy for U students and personnel despite the court ruling. Several weeks later, he announced in an e-mail addressed to students that the policy would be “temporarily suspended” until an agreement could be met with state legislators.