In what promises to be a continuing debate on the rights of law-abiding citizens, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled this week that banning firearms on the grounds of Oregon's public universities exceeded the scope of the university system's authority, thereby opening up the state's campuses to individuals who hold valid concealed handgun licenses.
Long viewed by gun rights activists as a violation of the state firearms preemption law, the restriction of license holders from exercising their right to self-defense while on campus served as a slap to law-abiding gun owners. The issue was forced into the spotlight when, in 2009, former Marine Jeffrey Maxwell was suspended from Western Oregon University for carrying on campus. Maxwell was 30 years old at the time and had his concealed handgun license. He was arrested for possessing a firearm in a public building; however, after further review, the Polk County district attorney dropped the charges.
As a result of Jeffrey Maxwell's treatment by the university and the administration, a lawsuit was filed against the Board of Higher Education and the Oregon University System. The case was argued before the Court of Appeals on March 29, 2011.
The Court concluded that the campus gun ban was an exercise of an 'authority to regulate' firearms that is not expressly authorized by the Legislative Assembly…Accordingly, the rule exceeds the agency's authority…and is invalid."
This ruling is an important step toward protection of the rights of law-abiding gun owners in Oregon, and we welcome this opinion.