PORTLAND — The Legislature and the state Board of Higher Education are trying again to keep guns off the campuses of Oregon’s seven public universities.
Democrats in the state Senate revived a campus weapons ban Tuesday, and it quickly passed out of a committee on its way to a vote in the full Senate. The Senate Rules Committee also approved a separate measure sought by gun-rights proponents that would protect the identity of people with a license to carry a concealed weapon.
The Oregon Court of Appeals struck down a rule against guns on campus in September, allowing students and faculty members to carry a gun with a concealed weapons permit. Only the Legislature can regulate firearms, the court said.
But the court also said the Board of Higher Education has authority to control its property, so the board is expected to approve a requirement Friday that people who have a reason to be on a campus agree not to carry a gun, The Oregonian reported.
That would apply to students, professors, employees, contractors and visitors to any event. The policy makes exceptions for police, military programs such as the Reserve Officer Training Corps, residents in non-campus housing, and hunting or target shooting clubs.
“There is strong support for this policy on the board,” said board member Jim Francesconi. “We believe this complies with the court decision.”
The board’s action is predictable, said Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearms Education Foundation, which filed the suit challenging the weapons ban.
Conditions of employment
A 2009 ruling involving a Medford school teacher said school authorities could use conditions of employment as a way to regulate guns, Starrett said. But, he said, “what power they have over their students, I think, frankly, remains to be seen.”
He said the foundation will see how the policy, if adopted, plays out before deciding on legal action. He said he hopes students challenge the policy by choosing to attend school where guns are allowed, citing campus dangers such as rapes and shootings.
“We just had another student shooting in Ohio,” he said, referring to a teenager who opened fire Monday in an Ohio high school cafeteria, killing three students.
After the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, many states considered legislation to ease firearm regulations on college and university campuses. Last year, 18 states introduced laws to allow people to carry concealed weapons on campus, the National Conference of State Legislatures reported. Laws passed in Mississippi and in Wisconsin.
In 25 states, including Washington and Idaho, the decision to ban or allow guns on campuses is made by each college or university.
Another 22 states, including California, ban concealed weapons on all campuses. Utah allows people to carry concealed weapons on public college and university grounds.
The Senate committee’s approval was a victory for people who want to exempt the identities of concealed handgun license holders from public records law. Similar legislation passed the House in 2009 and 2011 but died in Senate committees.
A state appeals court has ruled that information about applicants for concealed handguns is subject to disclosure under the public records law.
The case stems from a dispute between the Medford Mail Tribune and the Jackson County sheriff after the newspaper filed a public records request for the database of people who have applied to carry concealed weapons.