Opening arguments in the case on whether the University of Missouri's firearms policy violates the Missouri Constitution began Wednesday at the Boone County Courthouse.
The trial is the latest chapter in a saga that started in 2015 when Royce Barondes, an MU law professor, filed a lawsuit against the UM System Board of Curators and President Tom Wolfe. In 2018, a Boone County circuit court judge ruled that the university’s policy does not violate state law, which protects the rights of state employees to keep firearms in locked vehicles.
Now, the state of Missouri and Barondes are suing the university on the grounds that the university's firearms policy violates Article I, Section 23 of the state constitution, which states that an individual has the right to bear arms without infringement.
University policy prohibits possessing or discharging a firearm on university property, except for "in regularly approved programs or by University agents or employees in the line of duty."
Witnesses included campus law enforcement and firearms experts, who discussed safety and explained examples of gun violence on college campuses.
In opening statements, the state argued that any ban on firearms must be subjected to strict scrutiny, meaning that the regulation is narrowly tailored and furthers a compelling government interest. In this instance, the university policy would not withstand that scrutiny, Missouri Solicitor General John Sauer said.
The university's argument centered on its role as an educational institution.
“The right to bear arms allows some accepted limitations, such as in a ‘sensitive place,’ which in this case is a school or university,” the university's attorney Logan Rutherford said. “Because of that status, regulations in regards to firearms are necessary.”
Sauer said that this limitation refers to K-12 schools that educate minors, not universities.
At the end of the first day of arguments, both sides called for a decision from Boone County Circuit Judge Jeff Harris, but the judge denied the motion.
The trial will resume 9 a.m. Thursday at the Boone County Courthouse.
Supervising editor is Olivia Garrett.