This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The University of Utah on Monday agreed to allow guns on campus, 10 days after the Utah Supreme Court ruled the school has no right to ignore a state law that allows the carrying of concealed weapons by permit holders.
The showdown, though, is not over: The U. still believes it should be able to ban weapons and will pursue the question in federal court.
A joint motion filed Monday by the U. and the Utah Attorney General's Office reopened the case in U.S. District Court, where the dispute first landed.
The two sides are asking Judge Dale Kimball to delay any action in the case until March 31, in the hope they can reach an out-of-court settlement.
"We're very pleased that the university has agreed to this course of action," Raymond Hintze, chief deputy at the A.G.'s Office, said. "We think it's the correct thing to do. We think the university and the Legislature need to get together to see if they can resolve the sensitive issue of the way the laws apply to campus."
The Utah Supreme Court on Sept. 8 rejected the argument that prohibiting firearms is part of the school's power to control academic affairs, overturning a U. internal policy banning firearms. That ruling resolved only the state issues involved in the case, sending the case back to Kimball's court.
U. President Michael Young sent a letter to faculty and students letting them know of the policy change. He detailed the laws regarding concealed weapons and assured the campus he will continue to work with the Legislature and federal courts system to keep the campus safe.
"I realize that this issue is of great concern to many members of the campus community and assure you that the administration is committed to pursuing the most effective resolution of this issue to ensure the safety and well-being of our faculty, staff, students, and patients," he said in the letter.
The issue of whether the state constitution allows schools to set their own firearm policies heated up in 2001, when Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff issued a formal opinion that the U. policy violated a statute forbidding state or local entities from restricting the use of firearms.
The U. challenged that opinion in 2002 with a suit filed in U.S. District Court that raised both state and federal claims. Kimball declined to decide the federal issues until the school resolved its state claims in a Utah court.
The U. then filed a lawsuit in Utah's 3rd District Court. Based on state law at the time, Judge Robert Hilder ruled in 2003 that the gun ban was legal, prompting Shurtleff's office to appeal to the Supreme Court.
In response to Hilder's decision, state lawmakers passed a bill in 2004 that said only they can set gun policy. However, U. trustees then voted unanimously to maintain its policy prohibiting firearms on campus, home to more than 44,000 students, faculty and staff members.
Monday's stipulation says that "although the university desires to maintain a weapon-free campus," it has agreed to a temporary suspension of its internal gun policy.
SHEENA McFARLAND contributed to this article