UF will soon be served court papers concerning a lawsuit over storing guns in vehicles on campus, and allowing firearms in residence halls is now part of the dispute.
Florida Carry filed a lawsuit in Alachua County on Friday, making UF the second Florida university to face legal action from the gun advocacy group in recent months. A December court ruling against the University of North Florida allowed guns in vehicles on state campuses, and UF added a footnote to its regulations stating its intent to comply with the decision.
Sean Caranna, executive director of Florida Carry, said the nonprofit sent notifications to all state schools asking them to comply. He said UF’s footnote wasn’t enough — intent is useful when there is room for interpretation, but UF’s policy is strictly anti-gun.
Caranna said he tried to contact UF President Bernie Machen last week, but his call was met by the university’s general counsel instead.
“It was a cordial and polite call, but they really dismissed all of our concerns,” he said.
UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said in a statement that UF is not challenging the decision, and the university believes it is in full compliance. Florida Carry did not voice disapproval of UF’s steps to comply before the lawsuit, she said.
But the group is also suing to allow firearms inside dorm rooms.
During UF’s talk with Florida Carry, “they never raised the issue of guns in the home, which was not the subject of the court’s decision,” Sikes said.
However, Caranna said the 2008 Supreme Court case District of Columbia vs. Heller affirms an individual’s right to bear arms inside the home.
“A student’s dorm room has long been defined as their home,” he said. “It is a fundamental civil right ... It has been too long abused.”
Except when they’re stored in cars, having guns on any land owned or occupied by UF is prohibited. The housing department bans toys that resemble guns in residence halls — even using Nerf and water guns is forbidden, according to its 2013-2014 Community Standards. Other forbidden items include BB guns, paintball guns and slingshots.
Dylan Wolfgram, a 22-year-old UF physics junior, said he doesn’t see the need for students to have guns in their dorm rooms.
“I mean, how often are there break-ins at the dorms?” said Wolfgram, a Tolbert Hall resident.
He said there should at least be a test requiring students to qualify before bringing firearms into their dorms.
UF’s chapter of Students for Concealed Carry supports Florida Carry’s lawsuit, said president William Salvato, a 21-year-old UF biology senior. He plans on helping when he can.
“This is pretty much a warning to all other universities who didn’t want to change their policies,” he said.
A version of this story ran on page 1 on 1/13/2014 under the headline "Gun-rights group sues UF over car, dorm policies"