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Michigan Supreme Court returns University of Michigan gun case to lower court

The Michigan Supreme Court building at night
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In the case, an Ann Arbor resident sued U of M, arguing he has the right to openly carry a gun on campus.

The Michigan Supreme Court has returned a challenge to the University of Michigan’s on-campus gun restrictions to a lower court.

The unsigned court order instructs the Michigan Court of Appeals to consider whether the university's policy violates a U.S. Supreme Court decision. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a case from the State of New York, struck down many gun restrictions.

In this case, an Ann Arbor resident sued U of M, arguing he has the right to openly carry a gun on campus. U of M bans on guns on campus without special permission from the campus public safety department.

The university argues it’s exempt from a state law that preempts bans local open carry restrictions. U of M argues a public university is different than a local government with more authority to make its own rules. The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the univeristy's policy in 2017 with a 2-to-1 decision.

Justice David Viviano issued a separate concurring statement to the order. He said the appeals court should take into account the history of college and university campus gun policies.

He also seemed particularly interested in how the campus footprint interplays with city borders.

“Because the campus is so entwined with the surrounding community,” he wrote, “the ban might also burden carrying rights on locations outside campus, as many individuals will regularly go from campus to off-campus environments, even in a single trip; because they cannot bring a gun on campus, they will not feasibly be able to bring the gun to the off-campus locations either.”

Viviano noted the University of Michigan occupies nearly one-tenth of Ann Arbor.

Justice Richard Bernstein did not participate in the case. His brother sits on the U of M Board of Regents.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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