Royce de R. Barondes, an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Law, is suing his employer over his right to possess a gun on campus, the Washington Times reports. The university currently prohibits gun possession on campus "except in regularly approved programs or by university agents or employees in the line of duty."
Citing the state's constitution, Barondes' lawsuit says that this prohibition violates his right as a citizen to "keep and bear arms, ammunition and accessories in defense of his home, person, family, property or 'when lawfully summoned in aid of civil power.'"
The lawsuit emerges from a recent change to the Missouri state constitution. Missouri makes it very easy to buy a gun and, over the summer, the state's newly amended constitution included Amendment 5, reaffirming the state's commitment to legal gun-ownership.
The new language in the state document makes it clear that violent felons and those judged mentally ill can not own guns, but everyone else can. Further, there is a sentence saying that any “restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny.” Barondes is suing the university for "restricting his rights" as per that last bit.
Barondes' lawyer, Jennifer Bukowsky, is suing to protect all Missouri citizens, she says, not just students and teachers.
"The university’s rule is so obviously in violation of our state’s constitution," Bukowski told the Times. "We see this case as being the best vehicle to protect one of our nation’s very first freedoms — our freedom to self-defense."
In Missouri, meanwhile, it was already legal to possess a concealed gun on a college campus, provided an employee is specially trained; Missouri became the 10th state to pass such legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. Bukowsky and Barondes are claiming that the law is now in violation of Amendment 5 and that students and university employees should be free to be armed on campus, specially trained or not.
Barondes is licensed to carry a concealed weapon in the state, but it is not clear whether or not he is certified as a school protection officer.
According to crime stats kept by the state, there has been one homicide at the University of Missouri in the last 10 years. In addition, in April, university law enforcement shot and killed a robbery suspect, but the shooting was deemed justified after the release of body cam footage.
The university's police department is staffed by a relatively small number of officers. Major Brian Weimer of the University police department told me the school's security force has "40 sworn officers at full strength" but works with the city of Columbia's police department very closely. "If there were an active shooter, we'd get city, county, everyone really quickly."
Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, told the Times that the majority of students, professors, university presidents, and police chiefs said that having more guns on campus was not a realistic solution to keeping female students and workers safe; a 2014 study from Ball State University found that a full 95 percent of college and university presidents opposed concealed carry for their campuses. Further, Watts said, it might not be a good idea to allow guns on school property "because campuses are rife with alcohol, drugs, and depression: a dangerous recipe that may be made deadly by adding guns to the mix.”
Statistics from the Department of Education as well as state law enforcement bodies show that, by and large, college campuses, where guns are still mostly prohibited, are some of the safest places in the country, and school police chiefs across the nation want to keep things that way.
"I would disagree that allowing students to have guns would bring those situations under control more quickly,'' University of South Florida assistant police Chief Chris Daniels told Tampa Bay Times earlier this year. "I think it would create chaos. True control comes from people who are trained to handle dangerous situations. Not with everyone running around waving guns."
Cole County Circuit Court accepted Barondes' lawsuit on Monday. Barondes and Bukowsky did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
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