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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Florida appeals court weighs FSU gun policies

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 10:05 AM

A Second Amendment group asked an appeals court Tuesday to direct Florida State University to revise language in the student Code of Conduct about guns on campus to match state law.

The request to a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal came as the group Florida Carry continued a legal battle with the university that started with “erroneous” information about guns in a football “game day” guide in 2015.

Barry Richard, an attorney representing Florida State University, called the student Code of Conduct a “statement of information” rather than adopted rule. And he added that the initial issue raised in 2015 by Florida Carry was resolved in a lower court as the university corrected the game-day guide “within hours” of the lawsuit being filed.

The guide, a 28-page information packet sent out by campus police, incorrectly advised visitors that firearms can't be stored in vehicles parked on campus.

“The only reason that we're here on the issue of guns in vehicles is because we inadvertently had a continuation of the publication of the so-called game day plan, of an erroneous statement, and no one has disagreed from day one that that was an erroneous statement,” Richard said.

Florida Carry and Bekah Hargrove, then an FSU student, argued the guide failed to follow a 2013 court ruling that said the University of North Florida could not prevent firearms from being stowed in cars.

In May 2016, Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson ruled the Florida Carry argument was moot because the university had corrected the game-day information shortly after receiving the complaint.

Dodson also ruled that the school's Student Code of Conduct as written at the time was correct to list stun guns and other non-lethal electric weapons as being prohibited on campus.

But Florida Carry, which contests stun-gun rules that are still in the code, contends the school continues to improperly explain the state's firearms laws.

“They still have a student Code of Conduct that says guns are not allowed on campus,” said attorney Eric Friday, representing Florida Carry. “Either don't say anything or quote state law. It's that simple.”

The Code of Conduct, updated in February states in a section outlining violations of student behavior: “On-campus possession or use of firearms, antique firearms, ammunition, destructive devices, or other weapons or dangerous articles or substances, including but not limited to non-lethal weapons such as pellet guns, bb guns, paintball markers, slingshots, crossbows, stun guns, tasers, metallic knuckles, archery equipment, or any dangerous chemical or biological agent.”

Florida law prohibits most people with concealed-weapons licenses from carrying guns while on college and university campuses.

But a section of the code that outlines a number of exemptions to the rule doesn't note the law allowing guns to be stowed in cars. Also, one of the exemptions that is an issue for Florida Carry is that people with concealed-weapons licenses can carry types of non-lethal electric weapons or stun guns for defensive purposes.

In seeking to reverse Dodson's 2016 ruling, Florida Carry also wants the 1st District Court of Appeal to order a hearing to consider court costs and attorney fees.

In addition, Florida Carry contends Dodson didn't disclose his ties as an alumni donor to the university.

Dodson, a 1976 graduate of FSU's College of Law, is listed on the school's "Consecutive Giving Honor Roll" for donating the past "16 to 20 years," according to the FSU Foundation website.

Richard said the information regarding Dodson's history with the school was publicly available and that Florida Carry didn't raise the issue until after the ruling was made.

There is no timeline for the appeals-court judges to rule.

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