Lawsuit pits state law vs. UK regulations

One UK student is facing off against the university when it comes to his right to bear arms.

State law will weigh against university regulation in the case of one UK graduate student who is suing the school.

Michael Mitchell, an epidemiology graduate student and former UK Hospital employee who filed a lawsuit against the university last week, argues that because  Kentucky law says he can possess a registered firearm, UK cannot regulate him carrying one in his personal vehicle.

UK spokesman Jimmy Stanton said the university could not comment because of pending litigation.

If an individual is in possession of a registered firearm and keeps the weapon in his or her vehicle and does not remove it, then that individual is not guilty of a crime, according to the provision titled KRS 527.070.

However, according to UK administrative regulations passed in June 2007, any student or faculty member, even if he or she possesses a permit to carry a weapon, is prohibited from carrying it on any campus-owned or leased property including parking lots.

Christopher Hunt, Mitchell’s attorney, said he and Mitchell are arguing that UK’s rights are limited.

“We’re arguing that (their right to regulate) is restricted to some extent by this other statute,” Hunt said.

According to the regulations, university employees who violate the weapons policy are subject to corrective action, including termination of employment.

Mitchell said a fuzzy line exists in the campus regulations when university-affiliated students or faculty come from other locations in their car and cross campus property.

“Is that telling me that I have to stop at the border and toss my gun out the window?” he said. “The argument is, ‘does UK’s policy go above state law?’”

After UK Police responded to an anonymous claim that Mitchell had a firearm in his locker and did not find one, Mitchell told police he had a registered gun in his car, kept at K-lot. According to court reports, police escorted him to his car and were ordered to confiscate the weapon and Mitchell cooperated.

After the incident, Mitchell said his supervisors told him he was being suspended and about a week later he was fired.

Hunt said he and Mitchell agree that UK can restrict the possession of firearms, but the right is limited in certain areas.

“… And we’re saying that we’re in one of those areas,” Hunt said.

Colleges have the right to regulate the possession of concealed weapons on university-owned properties, according to the Kentucky State Police Web site.