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Thread: The VCU Dilemma

  1. #1
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    This issue has been discussed many times on this board, so I decided to put a post up on my blog. I think I covered most of the pertinent points. If anyone has anything to add or disagree's with some of my speculations, please feel free to comment here or on the blog.


    I attend Virginia Commonwealth University. If you are not familiar with this school:
    Virginia Commonwealth University is the largest university in Virginia and ranks among the top 100 universities in the country in sponsored research. Located on two downtown campuses in Richmond, VCU enrolls 32,000 students in 205 certificate and degree programs in the arts, sciences and humanities.
    A legal question exists in Virginia as to whether or not carrying a firearm at VCU is against the law. The VCDL website lists VCU as off-limits to carry, and it is mentioned in most CCW classes as an off-limits location. This is because of 8VAC90-10-50, a section of Virginia Administrative Code that covers the code of conduct at VCU.

    Specifically,
    ...no person, either singly or in concert with others, shall willfully... Have in his possession any firearm, other weapon, or explosive, regardless of whether a license to possess the same has been issued, without the written authorization of the president of the university. This restriction does not apply to persons whose duties lawfully require the possession of firearms or other weapons.
    However, this is not Criminal Code, and violating Administrative Code is not a crime. Furthermore, this section of State Administrative Code was drafted by the VCU Board of Visitors, NOT the State Legislature. The authority to do this was granted by 23-50.10.

    Another problem with this "law" is that it would be impossible to fairly enforce. VCU is a spread out, urban university, and city property and VCU property blend together with no clear definition. To effectively enforce this law, VCU would need to post hundreds if not thousands of signs deliniating the boundaries to its property. But hey, its all public property anyway, so this should really be a non-issue.

    Also, Virginia has a state preemption law pertaining to firearms laws. This law essentially prevents localities and agencies from making any firearms related laws or ordinances. However, this does not currently apply to VCU (or other public universities), as it is part of the state government. VCDL is currently pushing legislation to expand preemption to state agencies.

    Further invalidating this prohibition, is a recent Attorney General opinion.

    This opinion states:
    Governing boards of Virginia’s public colleges and universities may not impose general prohibition on carrying of concealed weapons by permitted individuals.
    Further reading of the opinion seems to indicate that universities CAN deny its students and faculty the Right to Carry, but it may not deny this right to non-student/faculty. Even as it does apply to students/faculty, it may not apply when someone is not on the property in the capacity of a student or employee. This creates yet another enforcement headache.

    The current state of firearms law in Virginia is flawed, because state agencies such as universities, public housing, and wildlife management are permitted to create policies that are contradictory to state law. Unfortunately, these policies are often adopted with little or no legislative review into Virginia Adminstrative Code.

    The VCU issue is badly in need of a test case. My personal opinion is that a non-student faculty could carry on VCU legally. If they chose to open carry, I imagine they would have an unpleasant encounter with VCU police and be asked to leave VCU property (wherever that ends). I believe that a police order to leave the public areas of a public university without cause would be an illegal order, but refusal to do so would most likely end up with a trip to jail and a trespass charge. This would then be the test case that we have been waiting for (and possibly a settlement for the OC'er).

    I can only hope that the VCDL is successful in gaining full state preemption, and this issue can be resolved without such an unpleasant incident.

    Liberty's Manure

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    Regular Member wylde007's Avatar
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    That's actually very interesting and informative.

    I carried on VCU over the Christmas holiday, as the wife and I visited the Governor's Mansion grounds, the Valentine Museum, the White House and Museum of the Confederacy (Deo Vindice).

    OK, OK... I didn't open carry... but I'll be damned if I'm going to walk around anywhere downtown without a weapon.

    Also, I love your avatar, in case that wouldn't be immediately obvious.

    [line]The quiet war has begun, with silent weapons
    And the newest slavery is to keep the people poor, and stupid.
    Novus Ordo Seclorum
    The quiet war has begun, with silent weapons
    And the newest slavery is to keep the people poor, and stupid
    Novos ordo seclorum ~ Mustaine

    Never argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

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    Regular Member ProShooter's Avatar
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    Very well written.

    This issue is raised every once in a while in our classes. While you quoted an important part of the statute, youneed toback it up a bit to get the full definition. Therein lies the answer to the question...

    8VAC90-10-50. The right to academic freedom and to equal educational and occupational access.

    The university is committed to providing an environment conducive to academic freedom, free inquiry, and equal access to educational and occupational opportunities. The principle of academic freedom requires all persons to respect another's dignity, to acknowledge another's right to express differing opinions, to cultivate and to cherish intellectual honesty, and to promote freedom of inquiry and expression. It is therefore the policy of the university that no act of any member of the university community shall serve to restrain or inhibit access to opportunities or the exercise of these freedoms. To that end, no person, either singly or in concert with others, shall willfully:

    4. Have in his possession any firearm, other weapon, or explosive, regardless of whether a license to possess the same has been issued, without the written authorization of the president of the university. This restriction does not apply to persons whose duties lawfully require the possession of firearms or other weapons.

    The phrase "To that end" starts off the "no person shall have a firearm" clause. "To that end" refers back to the previous sentence that references "members of the university community". These members are of course students, teachers and other employees. They are the only prohibited group of people who cannot carry at VCU, and the only group of people that VCU holds any authority over.

    ETA - This is of course my opinion and reading. Feel free to consult an attorney for legal advice.

    James Reynolds

    NRA Certified Firearms Instructor - Pistol, Shotgun, Home Firearms Safety, Refuse To Be A Victim
    Concealed Firearms Instructor for Virginia, Florida & Utah permits.
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    Instructor Bio - http://proactiveshooters.com/about-us/

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    Very good point. However I doubt VCU police/administration have done such a fine reading of the law. However that seems like something that would stand up in court.

    If you don't have any objections, I have copied your post (with credit of course) to the blog

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    Regular Member wylde007's Avatar
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    ProShooter wrote:
    It is therefore the policy of the university that no act of any member of the university community shall serve to restrain or inhibit access to opportunities or the exercise of these freedoms.
    Indeed, therein lies the rub.

    If I'm not a student or faculty member, then I do not meet the criteria here set and am not bound by anything that follows it.

    As you said, it was set as "policy" by the board of visitors under state statute, not legislation by duly elected representatives. It adds an interesting and convincing argument for CC and OC anywhere on the VCU campus, though inside a building they may have the "right" to request that you leave if armed.

    But that's a completely different argument.

    Again, well done.
    The quiet war has begun, with silent weapons
    And the newest slavery is to keep the people poor, and stupid
    Novos ordo seclorum ~ Mustaine

    Never argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

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    Regular Member glockfan's Avatar
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    I work full time at VCU.

    The question is where do you propose to carry? It seems to me they can keep you out of buildings like any other property owner that bans firearms.

    So I guess you are talking about carrying outside on the campus?

    Most of the VCU cops are going to stop you if you're OC'ing. I have asked several of them about this and that is what I have been told.




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    glockfan wrote:
    I work full time at VCU.

    The question is where do you propose to carry?¬* It seems to me they can keep you out of buildings like any other property owner that bans firearms.

    So I guess you are talking about carrying outside on the campus?

    Most of the VCU cops are going to stop you if you're OC'ing.¬* I have asked several of them about this and that is what I have been told.


    Maybe not? In my ECON class this morning our professor was talking about how the we the people of the commonwealth own the buildings on campus, and that no specific person or group of persons owns it. So wouldn't that mean that we could OC in the buildings?

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    It occurs to me that the laws set forth in the Virginia Code, as passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, include some version of the penalty for violation of that law, such as "shall be guilty of a Class One misdemeanor."

    In reading through the Virginia Administrative Code, I noticed I wasn't seeing anything about a penalty, at least not in the same paragraph(s) as the various prohibitions. In other words, what's the penalty for violating 8VAC90-10-50?

    Penalties for violating the Rules and Procedures of Virginia Commonwealth University appear to be limited to the following:

    Censure
    Probation
    Public service and educational experience
    Separation and dismissal
    Interim suspension
    Penalties against a licensee or invitee
    Restitution

    Section 150, Penalties against a licensee or invitee, seems to be the only one which may apply to visitors. Its text states:

    When the accused is a licensee, invitee, or visitor, authorization to remain on the campus or other facilities used by the university may be withdrawn, and he may be directed to leave the premises. Failure to leave or unauthorized return may subject the individual to applicable penalties under city, county, or state laws. A licensee, invitee, or visitor may petition the president of the university in writing to authorize a hearing before the University Hearing Board to determine whether there are proper and sufficient grounds for being excluded from university premises. The University Hearing Board shall present its recommendations directly to the president. There will be no further appeal.
    It seems to me that the question then becomes, "What authorization do I need, as a private citizen and resident of Virginia, to remain on the VCU campus?" Can they tell me I'm not allowed on their campus?

    Further, "Failure to leave or unauthorized return may subject the individual to applicable penalties under city, county, or state laws." would seem to say that failure to receive that authorization can, at most, yield a trespassing charge.

    That's my analysis. Feel free to pick it apart.

    ~ Boyd

    Edit: Edited to remove redundantly duplicative repetitions which were twice stated two times.

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    hunter45 wrote:
    Maybe not?
    Please don't respond to GlockFan.
    He/she/it isn't one of us.

    http://opencarry.mywowbb.com/view_to...285778#p285778

    [line]
    I've been told I can't OC @ GMU and UVA and have done so at both (no, I'm not a student).
    No trespass charges or illegal detentions, either.
    If you think like a Statist, act like one, or back some, you've given up on freedom and have gone over to the dark side.
    The easiest ex. but probably the most difficult to grasp for gun owners is that fool permission slip so many of you have, especially if you show it off with pride. You should recognize it as an embarrassment, an infringement, a travesty and an affront to a free person.


    ~Alan Korwin

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    I believe VCU has the authority to control access to the residence halls, dining halls, and sports venues. I am unsure as to the outdoor public areas, student commons, and academic buildings. This is based on what I've seen here as it pertains to public property in addition to some of my const. and case law classes, but I can't remember any specifics.

    Does anyone have a cite to prove or disprove this theory?

    EDIT:

    One more thing I forgot:

    The section of VAC states that you may not possess a firearm "without the written authorization of the president of the university." I have an acquaintance who wrote a letter to the president's office asking how to format and address this request, and he received a reply from the VCU Police saying that no such letters were issued.

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    glockfan wrote:
    I work full time at VCU.

    The question is where do you propose to carry? It seems to me they can keep you out of buildings like any other property owner that bans firearms.
    The government is not like a private owner - it must respect your rights. That being said, the AG opinion unfortunately said state colleges could ban gun carry in classroom buildings.

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    essayons wrote:
    Does anyone have a cite to prove or disprove this theory?

    I have an acquaintance who wrote a letter to the president's office asking how to format and address this request, and he received a reply from the VCU Police saying that no such letters were issued.
    I was wondering in a similar state to your ending remark.

    As to the former, I could only offer speculation in the form that employees of the school do not receive their paychecks from the government, but from the school, yes?

    As a "for instance" in the city of Virginia Beach, city school employees do not draw from the same pension and insurance as city employees. You either work for the city of Virginia Beach or you work for the City of Virginia Beach Public Schools. Property is owned by the City of Virginia Beach or City of Virginia Beach Public Schools and treated, legally as two separate entities for property ownership.

    The schools are moderated by a School Board, not City Council. The School Board is an elected body, but independent of the municipal structure.

    The administration at colleges and universities, even though they may have been granted their charters by the Commonwealth, still operate with independent budgets and governing bodies. The Commonwealth of Virginia has no jurisdiction to tell them what they can and cannot teach.

    This leads me to follow the course of logic that "public" universities are not public in the sense that they are open to anybody, but that they are subsidized and/or partially state-supported.

    Now, whether that makes campus grounds "public" is beyond the scope of my legal knowledge, they should by policy (as a "private" entity) be able to say who and who cannot carry a weapon on their property. Property includes buildings and curtilage thereto, but not public roads and streets, including immediately adjacent sidewalks.

    Finding out just what the relationship between the school and the Commonwealth happens to be is certainly at the crux of this discussion, but I would tend to consider the college/university as "private" as if considering it to be a business or other commercial interest, and not a ward of the state.
    The quiet war has begun, with silent weapons
    And the newest slavery is to keep the people poor, and stupid
    Novos ordo seclorum ~ Mustaine

    Never argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

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    wylde007 wrote:
    The administration at colleges and universities, even though they may have been granted their charters by the Commonwealth, still operate with independent budgets and governing bodies. The Commonwealth of Virginia has no jurisdiction to tell them what they can and cannot teach.

    This leads me to follow the course of logic that "public" universities are not public in the sense that they are open to anybody, but that they are subsidized and/or partially state-supported.
    Not really. Here is a sample of a portion of code authorizing a university, in this case VCU:


    § 23-50.4. Corporation established.

    There is hereby established a corporation consisting of the board of visitors of the Virginia Commonwealth University under the style of "Virginia Commonwealth University," and shall at all times be under the control of the General Assembly.
    Sounds a lot like a government organization to me.

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    One other thing I just remembered.

    The piece of legislation that empowers the Board of Visitors to make policy and put it into VAC is 23.50-10.

    Which states in part:

    The board of visitors shall be vested with all the rights and powers conferred upon it by this chapter insofar as the same are not inconsistent with the general laws of the Commonwealth.
    It seems to me that if VCDL is unsuccessful in gaining total preemption, we could petition the GA to exercise their control over VCU and change the weapons policy to be consistent with the general laws of the Commonwealth.

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    David Codrea over at War on Guns put up a post with comments on my blog post.

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    wylde007 wrote:
    This leads me to follow the course of logic that "public" universities are not public in the sense that they are open to anybody, but that they are subsidized and/or partially state-supported.
    No, state colleges are state agencies. See the AG opinion on college carry.

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    One option you have is TRANI himself giving you his permission to carry. I wonder how many times he has given it? ZERO?



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    The way I see it is if a 'locality' has their own independent police department with their own jurisdiction, they should be no different than any other 'local' government.

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    glockfan wrote:
    One option you have is TRANI himself giving you his permission to carry. I wonder how many times he has given it? ZERO?

    Trani is no longer president of VCU, and see my 3rd post in this thread regarding permission to carry.

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    essayons wrote:
    glockfan wrote:
    One option you have is TRANI himself giving you his permission to carry. I wonder how many times he has given it? ZERO?

    Trani is no longer president of VCU, and see my 3rd post in this thread regarding permission to carry.
    Someone knows not of what they speak.

    http://www.vcu.edu/president/

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    kenny wrote:
    essayons wrote:
    glockfan wrote:
    One option you have is TRANI himself giving you his permission to carry. I wonder how many times he has given it? ZERO?

    Trani is no longer president of VCU, and see my 3rd post in this thread regarding permission to carry.
    Someone knows not of what they speak.

    http://www.vcu.edu/president/
    I stand corrected.

    However he is no longer performing the duties of president, not since July 2008 when he underwent quintuple bypass surgery. He won't officially be stepping down in June to ensure a smooth transition to the next president. The Board of Visitors has been searching for a replacement, and the smart money is on Tim Kaine.

    http://www.business.vcu.edu/node/192

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    Everyone needs to go read Attorney General OP. NO. 05-078. I would post it here but the blackberry won't fine anything but a PDF

    I can attach a link though....

    http://74.125.113.132/search?q=cache...&client=ms-rim

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    I live a few blocks from the VCU campus and should be receiving my Concealed Handgun Permit in the mail within the next few days. I don't like that VCU tries to ban CHP holders from carrying on campus, but I'm absolutely willing to respect that rule. I have no other connection to VCU other than living nearby.

    The real problem for me - and essayon describes this in his initial post - is that there are many areas in my neighborhood that are within the outline of VCU's urban "campus" but are also public thoroughfares or house private businesses.

    Examples:

    • VCU owns commercial retail space on Broad St. that it rents out to tenants - Qdoba, Game Stop, Five Guys, etc. Are those private businesses covered by the VCU prohibition, because the buildings are owned by VCU and contain student housing on upper stories?
    • Park Ave. is a pedestrian mall for about three blocks as it passes by VCU buildings. Is that the VCU campus or is it still a public street? What about the sidewalks next to VCU buildings on public streets?

    I am very eager to remain in full compliance with the rule. I just can't find any clarity on what the rule actually covers and it's frustrating.

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    Runcible wrote:
    I just can't find any clarity on what the rule actually covers and it's frustrating.
    horray for gun laws! :?

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