Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed an amicus brief on March 1 against Joshua Wade, an Ann Arbor resident who challenged the University of Michigan’s on-campus firearm ban. According to the amicus brief, it is within the University’s constitutional rights to enact a firearm ban on campus, though the case remains held in the Michigan Supreme Court.
Amicus briefs are filed by parties not directly involved in a lawsuit to support one side of a case.
Nessel’s brief backs the University and argues court precedent supports their firearms ban, noting that restrictions on firearm carry exist in other sensitive places like churches and primary and secondary schools.
“When it declared the rough contours of the amendment, the Court was careful to single out core areas in which governments may regulate firearms — including longstanding prohibitions on guns at school,” the brief reads. “From the first colleges on American soil to the present day, states and colleges have exercised their authority to regulate firearms in myriad ways, from outright bans to clear permission to carry. The University’s prohibition fits within this range of permissible options.”
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald agreed, writing in an email to The Daily that the University is well within its constitutional rights in prohibiting weapons on campus, citing the 2008 Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller. This landmark case recognized the right of public entities to regulate handguns in schools and public buildings.
“Guns have been banned for decades and courts have upheld the University’s right to prohibit weapons from campus,” Fitzgerald wrote. “The safety of the University community is one of our highest priorities as a University. Allowing weapons on campus undermines those efforts.”
Psychology professor L. Rowell Huesmann, who studies aggressive behavior and media violence, said Wade is unlikely to win his case due to the precedent set by D.C. v. Heller. He added that the University and surrounding community is better off with the standing firearms ban.
“Numerous studies show that not only when people have firearms is there a greater likelihood of people being seriously hurt during disagreements and arguments, but just the sight or knowledge of firearms being around is what we psychologists call a ‘prime’ to behaving more aggressive and violent,” Huesmann said. “So there’s a lot of studies that show that just the sight of a firearm makes people more likely to think more aggressively and violently than they otherwise would.”
Huesmann said the argument that guns make people safer isn’t backed by data. Instead, he said, the presence of firearms increases the likelihood of gun violence.
“Studies also show that the concept of providing protection is very misplaced — that firearms don’t provide personal protection in the way that people think,” Huesmann said. “In fact, they are likely to lead to accidental shootings and killings of people. The idea that they provide significant protection against nefarious people is just not borne out by the data.”
LSA freshman Macy Hannan said she doesn’t see a difference between the University and other places like churches and primary and secondary schools that are able to regulate firearms.
“From my understanding, my high school was able to (ban firearms), churches are able to (ban firearms), I don’t get why this is any different of a situation and I think it’s something that should be done,” Hannan said.
Hannan said she would feel less safe walking around campus if the courts were to strike down the firearms ban.
“I think it is the University’s responsibility to help keep me safe, and they should be able to keep me safe so then I don’t need to,” Hannan said. “I would definitely feel more scared walking around campus if (the ban is repealed).”
LSA junior Ryan Fisher, president of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, said court precedent gives the University the right to regulate firearms on campus. But Fisher added that he believes allowing concealed carry of firearms on campus would make students safer.
“College campuses especially are a sensitive location, and I do think it could be alarming openly carrying firearms, especially given some recent history with school shootings,” Fisher said. “Concealed carry, on the other hand, averts the possibility that someone could be upset with the fact that you are carrying a firearm while nevertheless giving people the opportunity to defend themselves, and even defend others in times of danger.”
LSA freshman Barry Dechtman disagreed and said he doesn’t see a need for students to carry guns on campus and has faith in the University’s ability to protect its students.
“There’s no real need to have guns on a college campus,” Dechtman said. “I think protection is a big thing, but I think there are many alternatives and a lot of other measures the University can take to keep students safe (instead of allowing guns on campus). Without guns, I feel a lot safer.”
Daily Staff Reporter Julia Rubin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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