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Third District Judge Reaffirms U’s No Guns on Campus Policy

August 29, 2003 — In a ruling issued today in the Third District Court, Judge Robert K. Hilder, reaffirmed the University of Utah’s policy which bans concealed weapons on its campus. Hilder determined that the University is and has always acted within the law by maintaining policies that prohibit students, faculty and staff from bringing weapons onto campus. The University has maintained this decades-long practice to ensure a safe learning environment and to nurture an environment that encourages the free exchange of ideas. The judge further stated that the Utah laws at issue do not interfere with the U’s internal policies regarding student and employee conduct.

During a University of Utah press conference following the judge’s ruling, President J. Bernard Machen and Alan Sullivan, attorney with Snell & Wilmer, spoke with reporters. “This is a gratifying moment for the University, “stated Machen. “Judge Hilder’s decision will be reassuring for our faculty, staff and students and enable us to continue to provide a safe environment for learning.”

Sullivan reported that the state court’s decision was in response to the U’s “friendly lawsuit” against Attorney General Mark Shurtleff that was filed earlier in federal court. At that time, federal judge Dale Kimball chose not to rule on the U’s claim of First Amendment rights until the state court considered the U’s claims under state laws. The University then filed its state claims with the state court which ended up in Judge Hilder’s court.

In his ruling, Hilder acknowledged the U’s obligation of providing a safe place for education, and noted that any different interpretation of these laws would take away from the U’s ability to meet this obligation.

Sullivan reiterated a quote read from the bench today regarding a U.S. Supreme Court case of Sweezy v. New Hampshire, “These pages need not be burdened with proof, based on the testimonies of a cloud of impressive witnesses, of the dependence of a free society on free universities.”