Members of the Michigan Open Carry organization stands together as they wait to enter an Ann Arbor school board meeting at Ann Arbor Huron High School, in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. The Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education is asking state lawmakers to consider legislation to make schools gun-free zones.
It doesn’t matter if state law allows people to openly carry guns on the University of Michigan’s campus, the university argued in a recent court filing, because only U-M’s board can set U-M policy.
That’s because, in U-M’s view, the Michigan Constitution exempts U-M from having to pay attention to a state law banning local governmental units from making weapons laws.
U-M made the argument in a brief asking a state Court of Claims judge to toss out a lawsuit filed by Joshua Wade, an Ann Arbor resident who is seeking to open carry his gun on campus. He disagrees with the university’s claim of sovereignty.
“The Michigan Constitution vests the power to legislate with the state legislature, not with the state universities…” Wade’s attorney, Steven Dulan wrote in a court filing last week. “It is clear that the Board of Regents is powerful within the governance of the University itself, but it has no authority to attempt to usurp the legislature’s constitutionally-delegated role in the state government.”
U-M’s weapons policy says no weapons can be carried on U-M campuses by anyone other than law enforcement or the military. It also offers exceptions for education purposes. The university’s policy also says the director of public safety can issue a waiver allowing someone to carry a weapon on campus “based on extraordinary circumstances.” The policy, Article X, was put in place 14 years ago.
Wade applied for such a waiver, his lawsuit states. It was denied by the university’s chief of police.
U-M argues in its court filing that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling also allows for schools to make rules banning weapons. However, Dulan claims in his counter-filing that is a wrong interpretation of that case and other cases.
U-M says Wade’s argument that the weapons ban violates a state ban on local governmental units from setting their own weapons bans or rules is moot because University of Michigan and other universities are given special powers under the state’s Constitution.
It has been settled, for more than 150 years, that as a matter of state constitutional law the University has the authority to manage and control its property,” the university’s lawyers wrote in their filing, citing several different versions of the state’s constitution. “Numerous opinions from the Michigan Supreme Court and the Michigan Court of Appeals have interpreted this provision — like the virtually identical earlier versions — as giving the University expansive authority over its affairs and property.
The issue of firearm possession on University property goes directly to the day-to-day operations of the institution. It implicates the University’s judgments regarding safety, housing, and how best to foster an open and welcoming educational environment-all matters central to the University’s function. And, of course, it directly concerns the control and management of University property.”
A hearing date on the motion to dismiss the lawsuit has not been set.
Michigan’s “open carry” laws allow people with concealed carry permits to take guns into so-called pistol-free zones, such as schools, as long as the weapon is visible. There is no state law regulating open carrying of weapons in other areas as long as the weapon is in plain view, according to Michigan State Police.
There have been a number of incidents recently in which open carry advocates have showed up at churches, schools and government complexes armed with assault rifles and handguns as part of their campaign to educate residents on gun laws and desensitize the public to the sight of guns. In March, the same rifle-carrying man caused Madison Heights educators to lock down Lamphere High School twice in a week. The same man, Shawn Nixon, in June got in confrontations with Oakland County Sheriff’s deputies after showing up armed outside the county jail complex.