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Second Amendment Case: Law Student Sues Idaho University to Keep Guns

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The University of Idaho sits on a picturesque, tree-lined campus in the rolling hills of the northwestern Palouse. Just one mile from the Washington State border, the state's oldest university has the tranquil feel of a bricks-and-ivy, New England college. But one student here is fighting for his right to keep a bit of the Wild West alive on campus. And his case is just one skirmish in a raging national debate over guns, gun control and the legal and moral codes that guide the role of firearms in public places.

Aaron Tribble is the 36-year-old, second-year law student making national headlines for his suit against the university's gun policy, a rule he feels stands in violation of his Second Amendment rights. Tribble plans to put his education to good use and represent himself at the July 20 hearing; University of Idaho President Duane Nellis and the State Board of Education were named defendants and issued summonses on Jan. 21.

Guns of any kind are strictly prohibited from student housing on the Moscow campus. At particular issue in Tribble's case is precisely where students or faculty living on-campus can store their legally owned firearms. According to the Argonaut student newspaper, the university's administrative manual makes clear where guns must be kept: "firearm storage is available at the Police Campus Substation."

Tribble, a father of two, has complained that fetching his guns from the campus police can be a time-consuming affair. In a website set up to publicize the case, Tribble claims that he cannot "lawfully possess a firearm in defense of his family without the threat of expulsion or other academic sanctions." As for moving to different housing not bound by the school's policies, he points to the "pricing and location" of student housing as deciding factors in his living situation.

Since filing his case, Tribble has garnered support from some fellow students, including an Idaho chapter of the national group Students for Concealed Carry, a gun-rights organization launched in 2007 that claims roughly 43,000 members and supporters nationwide. Al Baker, the group's state director and a fellow law student at the university, said in a statement that "Tribble's suit reflects the fact that the fundamental right of self-protection does not end at an arbitrary boundary."

When it comes to guns, the struggle to define and enforce the seemingly arbitrary boundaries between private and public spheres is not new and is being hotly debated in several other states as well. Last week in Oklahoma, state senator and Iraq war veteran Steve Russell proposed a bill that would allow concealed weapons on college campuses. According to the Tulsa World, the state's chancellor of higher education said that every public college and university in his state is opposed to the idea.

According to a comprehensive report in Inside Higher Ed, Russell's bill in Oklahoma would join similar efforts in Arizona, Texas, Florida, Nebraska and New Mexico. Meanwhile in Colorado, a decision is pending from the state supreme court on whether colleges can legally ban guns on campus. And in Texas, some student groups are working to make concealed carry rights their "top priority for the 2011 Texas Legislative Session." But the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, which counts more than 260 universities and colleges as supporters, is fighting the legislative trend with a petition that it hopes will sway lawmakers.

There is only one state where the issue has been settled. Following a 2006 ruling by the state supreme court, Utah ruled that colleges were barred from enforcing their own rules, at least when it comes to guns. Utah's Chief Justice Christine Durham's dissent, quoted in Inside Higher Ed, said the new logic on guns had set a dangerous precedent and meant that "the university may not subject a student to academic discipline for flashing his pistol to a professor in class."

Gun-friendly legislative solutions gained momentum nationwide in the wake of the mass-shooting incident in 2007 at Virginia Tech where 27 students and five teachers were killed by a lone gunman, Seung-Hui Cho. After another disturbed young loner shot 19 people and killed six in Tucson earlier this month, the tone of the debate rose yet again -- gun rights activists argue that permitting more people to carry concealed weapons protects the innocent, while gun control groups work to make ever more powerful guns and ammunition clips harder to obtain.

Baker, the Students for Concealed Carry legal liaison in Idaho, pointed out that Tribble's case has a narrower objective than most similar efforts in other states. Tribble is "only suing about his residence and his type of residence, family housing, where graduate students and their families typically live," Baker said. "He isn't talking about taking guns into dorms or classrooms or labs or anywhere else on campus." However, Baker added that Students for Concealed Carry typically advocates for a "much more broad type of change" and is actively working to introduce a written bill to the Idaho Statehouse.

Currently in Idaho, it is not illegal under state law for a person with proper training and licenses to have a concealed gun on a college campus. (It is illegal in any K through 12 school.) But according to Tribble and Baker, the problem is when institutions, whether public or private, attempt to enforce rules that run counter to the law. Baker wants to see a solution from Boise.

"That's the ultimate fix in this thing," he said. "The legislature can step in and give us a clear definition, and it would make these type of suits go away."
Filed Under: Guns, Law, Education

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141 Comments

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Marrs& Terry

skinner1056 trust his goverment way to much with the crime rate statistics the City of Detroit recently revised their numbers upward when it was realized they were not counting murders of people who shot but made it to a hospital and later died there wer other accounting ERRORS which put the city in a better light
so have a nice day

February 01 2011 at 8:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
skinner1056

I really do not understand why all these gun fanatics are so afraid of home invasion or crime as a need to carry a weapon. Compared to 25 yrs ago crime is actually down. The murder rate is as low as it was since 1966 (back in the days when you did not have to lock your door). Most murders are done by people the victim knows like friends or family. So I do not see the argument. We are a safer society than before and it does not seem to be related to having more guns out there.

January 31 2011 at 10:15 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
brian

Guns don't kill people,people kill people.What next,no baseball bats allowed
on school grounds.That way we can stop playing baseball at school.
Come on,lets get real.

January 30 2011 at 8:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Don jr

Guns are part of the U.S.just like freedom of speech, the right to vote, and apple pie.

January 30 2011 at 8:17 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
camarillofats

The more people carrying guns, the more people will be shot. Simple logic.

January 30 2011 at 6:58 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to camarillofats's comment
davidinva2007

Really??? I think cars have killed more humans that guns in the past 50 yrs, why dont we ban them too?

January 30 2011 at 10:20 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Hello Bill !

Cars, airplaines, drugs, have certinally killed people...but people kill people with anything they can get their hands on...lets just excute the people who kill others, get rid of the lawyers or maybe excute them with their clients within 10 minutes of a finding of their guilt. Life would be so much simpler If dualing was premitted.

January 31 2011 at 12:31 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
SlimShady

If there have been 400,000 deaths from firearms since 1968, then it would be smarter to ban automobiles to save lives. In 1968, there were approxiamately 50,000+ deaths from auto accidents per year decreasing down to approximately 40,000. At an average of 45,000 deaths/yr x 30 years =1,350,000 deaths from automobiles. No where in the article were gang-related shooting, drug traffickers or other causes of death by shooting broken down. The number of deaths involving law-abiding citizens and guns is a tiny percentage of the 400,000 given, but it seems we will tolerate more deaths by a convenience than by a Constitutional right. The news media wets themselves when an incident like the Tucson shootings happen. They can find out more information about the shooter, but when it comes to investigating pork, corruption in DC., nothing. Bias in the news is nothing new, now the media seems to have no problem is blatantly displaying that bias. Keep in mind, you lose one right, you've lost the other nine.

January 30 2011 at 6:53 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply
richstrong

In Ohio,I wonder if it makes a difference that teachers are considered to be "officers of the peace" - what does this mean in practice?

January 30 2011 at 6:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Richard

If you don't like not having a gun in student housing, move. If you don't like the fact that this university disallows weapons on its premises, go to another university. I think you will find that almost every university in the country has a policy against weapons on campus. If you don't like the policy, then don't go there. The State of Georgia allows concealed weapons to be carried in bars. Bar owners have the right to refuse service to anyone carrying a weapon, concealed or not. If you don't like the rules of the establishment, you are welcome to not patronize it.

January 30 2011 at 6:49 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Richard

Self-protection is not constitutionally guaranteed. Read it again, law student.

January 30 2011 at 6:44 PM Report abuse -6 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Richard's comment
davidinva2007

Even a 5th grader can understand 'the right to bear arms'

January 30 2011 at 10:20 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
ajcook111

There are more guns out there than ever and every day we read about more innocent people being slaughtered.

January 30 2011 at 5:09 PM Report abuse -7 rate up rate down Reply

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