TAMPA — A Florida gun-rights group repeated its threat to sue any state university that hasn’t lifted a ban on students storing guns in their cars by Monday, a situation that could put the University of South Florida on the spot.
The spring semester starts Monday, and a spokesman for Lehigh Acres-based Florida Carry Inc. said state schools are obligated to comply with a December appellate court ruling and notify students as they return to campus that such a practice is now legal.
State law prohibits guns on university campuses, but many schools, including USF, took the statute a step further through campus policies.
“The plan is that anybody that is not in compliance by Monday, we have the right to file at any time,” said Eric Friday, lead counsel for Florida Carry. “I could file today if I wanted to, but we gave everybody until Monday,” he said last week.
A spokesman said USF’s policy banning guns in vehicles in campus parking lots was being reviewed. The campus shut down for winter break Dec. 23, reopening Jan. 2, but it appears the issue has not been addressed since prior to the break.
On its general counsel’s website, USF lists Policy No. 6-009, “Weapons on USF System Property,” as “currently under review.”
Florida Carry and a student at the University of North Florida sued that school in Duval County Circuit Court in October 2011, saying firearms restrictions are the exclusive purview of the state Legislature. A judge there threw out the suit, but a Tallahassee appellate court ruled that universities could not regulate guns on campuses.
UNF president John Delaney said last month that the Jacksonville university would not appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Identical regulations to those at UNF exist at the University of Florida and Florida State University in addition to USF. An FSU spokesman said the ruling rendered that university’s policy void; it could not be determined how UF was reacting to the appellate court decision.
“They are denying students a fundamental right to defend themselves from criminal attack when traveling to and from school, and there is absolutely no excuse for it,” said Florida Carry’s Friday. “They’re going to come into compliance, and they’re going to do it now.”