Ohio State faces lawsuit over campus gun ban


By Maggie Thurber | for Ohio Watchdog

GUN BAN: Students for Concealed Carry Foundation is challenging The Ohio State University ban on guns and ammunition.

You can’t carry a gun on the campus of Ohio State University. Nor can you possess, in and around campus housing, any chemical and dry ice bombs, explosives, bows and arrows, darts, fireworks, knives, paint guns, BB guns, pellet guns, airsoft guns, Tasers/stun-guns, nightsticks and martial arts implements.

They’re all “deadly weapons” according to the university.

Oh — and if you have a conceal carry license from the state, too bad. The ban applies to you as well.

While OSU can’t bring criminal charges against you, officials can discipline you, up to and including dismissal if you’re a student or termination if you’re an employee.

But maybe not for long.

Students for Concealed Carry Foundation and Ohioans for Concealed Carry filed a lawsuit to overturn the ban.

They may actually win because of a unique provision in the Ohio Revised Code.

You see, the General Assembly decided that laws regulating firearms, their components and their ammunition should be uniform across the state.

Since OSU was created by the General Assembly and is an instrumentality of the state, the school can’t create new rules that contradict state law.

At least, that’s the argument the lawsuit makes.

“The Ohio Revised Code is clear that the Legislature retains sole authority to regulate the possession of firearms,” said Derek DeBrosse, one of the attorneys on the case. “Ohio State’s policies are in direct violation of the law.”

DeBrosse, his co-counsel Mike Moran and Erik Soderstrom, a board member of SCC Foundation, held a conference call with bloggers and reporters to talk about the lawsuit.

Though the ban has been in place for several years, the lawsuit was filed July 6.

“In going against one of the top five biggest universities in the country, you need to have your ducks in a row,” DeBrosse said, which is why attorneys took extra time and were very meticulous in making sure the filing was proper.

He also said they didn’t seek a temporary injunction to prevent enforcement of the policies while the case is pending, though they were aware some individuals had been stopped and detained for exercising their Second Amendment rights.

“They were reluctant to put their names on the lawsuit,” DeBrosse said. “Students and employees were concerned about retaliation.”

The suit asks for a declaratory judgment that the rules, regulations and policies banning firearms are unlawful, and a permanent injunction barring OSU from applying the ban to students, employees and visitors.

They also ask for attorney fees, which the ORC dictates must be awarded should the court find that OSU policies contradict state law.

Additionally, they want the court to order OSU to “immediately expunge and destroy all disciplinary records based on the unlawful rules.”

“The goal of the lawsuit is to restore law to Ohio State and to show them that they need to abide by the laws,” Moran said. “And that if they don’t like the law, they should change it” rather than implement their own.

OSU spokesman Gary Lewis said the school’s practice of prohibiting open carry of a firearm mirrors that of other universities across the state.

But DeBrosse said that just because other universities do it doesn’t make it legal.

“Open carry is constitutionally protected,” DeBrosse said. “But a student can’t open carry on campus or they’ll be punished.”

And it isn’t just about open carry.

“We have concealed carry laws in Ohio,” DeBrosse added. “The General Assembly has said you can’t conceal carry on a campus, but you can have a weapon in a locked motor vehicle.”

DeBrosse said OSU’s policies ban even that.

“We are committed to a safe and secure campus environment for our students, faculty and staff,” Lewis said. “Our goal is to ensure that our policies comply with the law, and we believe ours do.”

The case is pending in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. The first hearing is scheduled for November with a tentative trial date on July 14, 2015.