The student who was found in possession of a handgun on the night of Monday, March 19 in Eagle Landing has been placed on interim suspension, pending the completion of campus judicial review, according to university officials.
However, at the time of the incident, the student was not arrested by campus police, according to Vice President of Student Affairs Doug Searcy.
“The student was engaged and interviewed by police to clarify the level of threat,” Searcy said. “The student was not arrested, but was under the [police department] scope of authority until a clear understanding of the circumstances could be determined.”
Since the release of the initial article, the University released a notice to the UMW community, indicating that the incident “did not necessitate a campus alert,” but that, “the University considers any incident involving a gun to be a serious matter.”
However, commenters on the original articles in the Bullet, the Free Lance-Star, and Patch questioned the university’s authority to take the gun from the student, indicating that it violated the student’s second amendment rights.
“The law does not prohibit weapons on UMW campus. That’s because the people in the Commonwealth of Virginia still have rights,” said one commenter identified as Alex. “While the student may be subject to academic sanctions, the arrest and seizure was unlawful. It is a civil, not a criminal matter. Besides, the rule might be illegal, because UMW is a state school, and the Commonwealth claims pre-emption on all firearms laws.”
But Searcy said that the campus police acted on the authority of the university and had the right to confiscate the weapon.
“The university police have the authority to act in an administrative capacity for the university and implement campus policy,” he said in an email.
He added that, “Virginia universities can set their own policy regarding firearms / weapons.”
Under Virginia law, UMW has the institutional authority to enforce a no-weapon policy, according to Alan Edwards, policy studies director at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.
On Monday, the governing board of Virginia Tech voted unanimously to ban firearms in campus buildings and at major campus events, like football games, according to the Roanoke Times.
The vote comes in response to Virginia’s Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s opinion from last August, when he said that campus governing boards needed to make gun bans regulations, opposed to statements in the university policy, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Similarly, in Colorado, the State Supreme Court recently ruled that students and employees with concealed weapon permits can carry handguns on University of Colorado campuses, overturning a university policy that had been challenged by gun rights activists since its implementation in 1994, as reported by the New York Times earlier this month.
In October, the Oregon State Court of Appeals overturned a longstanding firearm ban at the University of Oregon after a former U.S. Marine was arrested and suspended for violating the campus no-gun policy, according to the DePaulia, the student newspaper of DePaul University. The Oregon Firearms Federation filed a lawsuit on the student’s behalf.
The DePaulia article stated that 15 states currently allow universities to determine whether concealed weapons should be banned, but the Oregon case could change this since it “ruled that universities do not have the ‘institutional authority’ to regulate guns.”
On March 31, 2012 this article was updated to clarify when the original incident occured.