Sunday, February 15, 2009

Concealed Carry on Campus - Oregon Style

Western Oregon Journal

In a February 4, 2009, article by Erin Huggins a writer for the Western Oregon Journal (apparently an official publication of the Western Oregon University, located in Monmouth, Oregon) announced that a student has been arrested for carrying a concealed weapon (a loaded, concealed handgun) on campus

Even though the student, identified as "Jeffery Maxwell" is the possessor of a Concealed Handgun License (CHL), the story of his arrest was accompanied by blaring headlines:

Mid-morning arrest startles students

Individual brings weapons on campus in violation of state law

The body of the article defines the reason for and the results of the arrest:

Last Wednesday morning at 11:16 a.m., Campus Public Safety (CPS) and Monmouth Police identified, detained and arrested Western student Jeffrey Maxwell in the downstairs student area of Werner University Center (WUC) for violation of ORS 166.370, Possession of a Firearm in a Public Building.
CPS had sent an e-mail on Tuesday, Jan. 27, alerting the campus community about an individual who had been seen loitering around the pool area and the residence halls.
Wednesday morning, CPS received a call reporting a person matching the description given in the e-mail who was carrying a knife on campus. Because weapons were involved, Assitant Director of CPS and CPS Officer Mike Hanson called Monmouth Police Department (MPD) for back-up. Sergeant Kim Dorn, Officer Matthew Olafson and a recruit officer from MPD, along with Hutchinson and Hanson, were unable to locate the individual upon an initial search of the campus.
However, shortly before 11 a.m., CPS received another call about the individual and the MPD officers returned to campus.
Maxwell, who was sitting at one of the study tables across from the Service and Career Learning Center, was approached from behind by Joe Hutchinson from Campus Public Safety and MPD officers. Hutchinson asked Maxwell if he had any weapons concealed on his person.
On first response, Maxwell answered he had a knife. Hutchinson then put Maxwell's hands above his head. The second time he was asked, Maxwell said he had a gun.
After the weapons were removed, officers took him into the Calapooia Room. A few minutes later, he was escorted into one of two police cars parked on Church Street outside of WUC.
Responding to why they did not evacuate WUC, Hutchinson said CPS did not know what weapons were involved and did not want to alert the suspect by a sudden flood of students leaving the building.

The article states specifically that Maxwell was carrying a concealed weapon "in violation of state law."

In fact, the Oregon state law, in Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) which regulates the carrying of weapons "in public buildings" [ORS 166.370, subsection (f)].

is apparently nullifed in the specific case of a CHL possessor on University property [ORS 166.262 & 166.370(3)(d) ]

The portions of ORS 166.370 which are pertinent to this situation include:

166.370 Possession of firearm or dangerous weapon in public building or court facility; exceptions; discharging firearm at school.

(1) Any person who intentionally possesses a loaded or unloaded firearm or any other instrument used as a dangerous weapon, while in or on a public building, shall upon conviction be guilty of a Class C felony.

(2)(a) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b) of this subsection, a person who intentionally possesses:

(A) A firearm in a court facility is guilty, upon conviction, of a Class C felony. A person who intentionally possesses a firearm in a court facility shall surrender the firearm to a law enforcement officer.

(B) A weapon, other than a firearm, in a court facility may be required to surrender the weapon to a law enforcement officer or to immediately remove it from the court facility. A person who fails to comply with this subparagraph is guilty, upon conviction, of a Class C felony.

(b) The presiding judge of a judicial district may enter an order permitting the possession of specified weapons in a court facility.

(3) Subsection (1) of this section does not apply to:

(a) A sheriff, police officer, other duly appointed peace officers or a corrections officer while acting within the scope of employment.

(b) A person summoned by a peace officer to assist in making an arrest or preserving the peace, while the summoned person is engaged in assisting the officer.

(c) An active or reserve member of the military forces of this state or the United States, when engaged in the performance of duty.

(d) A person who is licensed under ORS 166.291 and 166.292 to carry a concealed handgun.

(e) A person who is authorized by the officer or agency that controls the public building to possess a firearm or dangerous weapon in that public building.

(f) Possession of a firearm on school property if the firearm:

(A) Is possessed by a person who is not otherwise prohibited from possessing the firearm; and

(B) Is unloaded and locked in a motor vehicle.

(4) The exceptions listed in subsection (3)(b) to (f) of this section constitute affirmative defenses to a charge of violating subsection (1) of this section.

(NOTE: References to [ORS 166.262 ] and changes in ORS 166.370 may be referenced by following this link to records of the 2003 Regular Session of the 72nd Oregon Legislative Assembly.)

In terms of the legality of the arrest, Maxwell was well within his legal rights to carry a concealled handgun on any Oregon Universtity Campus. It was not Maxwell, but the officers of CPS and Monmouth Police Department (MPD) who were violating the law.

SEE the Feb. 11, 2009 article from the Western Oregon Journal:

Controversial laws cause questions about school, state procedures

Alleged violations in Maxwell case pending decisions by campus judicial board and state hearing; law clarification left to courts

The article, again by Erin Huggins, describes the misunderstanding about the exemptions from ORS 166.370

As reported by Huggins:
According to Campus Public Safety and Monmouth PD, two separate allegations are involved in this case: how Maxwell's conduct relates to Western's policy, governed by Oregon Administrative Rules (OAR), and how his actions comply with the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS).

Because Maxwell's conduct was in compliance with ORS, he has been released from police custody.

However, because his conduct was NOT in compliance with ORA,he has also been asked to leave the WOU campus. (This information not linked to found Internet resources).

From the Western Oregon Journal follow-up story:

Comments posted to the Feb. 4 story on the Western Oregon Journal's Web site ( have questioned the legality of Monmouth PD's actions as well as Western's right to restrict firearms, based on ORS 166.170, which grants the state preemption in regulating firearms.
Other questions regarding ORS 166.170 and its relationship to OAR 580-012-0010, which gives colleges administrative rights to proscribe conduct on campus property, will continue to be debated until they are resolved in a court of law, said Director of CPS Jay Carey.
In regard to the controversy, President Minahan made the following statment: "The University's position is very clear--we expect our students to be carrying books and pencils, not guns and knives. This is a college campus dedicated to learning, not combat. The Oregon University System has the legal ability to establish rules regulating weapons on campus. This has been so for years."
And the comments were almost universally an expression of outrage over the arrest of a man who was not disobeying existing law.

A secondary question, and the crux of the existing controversy, is whether a University has the right to censure a student for conduct which is legal according to existing law. To extend the question, can an employer censure a customer to leave the premises, or fire an employee, when that person is acting in accordance to existing law, has not created a disturbance, or otherwise been a problem to the employer.

This has been a contentious issue on American College campuses for the past two years, and has been directly addressed by the "Empty Holster" campaign waged by the Students for Concealled Carry on Campus website. (I have written about the "Empty Holster" campaign before.)

There have been so many school shooting in this country during the last 15 years that students might be forgiven for saying, as Jeffery Maxwell, said, "I was just scared after Virginia tech. I was just really worried about my safety."

A personal note:
I work on a University campus, and I too am worried about my safety in a "Gun Free School". Six months out of the year, I walk in the dark across campus to my car in 'zone' where I am forbidden to carry any means to protect myself. The law says I am permitted to carry a handgun, because I have applied for and have been issued a CHL.

But if I'm concerned about my safety, I'm also concerned about my ability to earn a salary. The OAC says that if I'm found with a handgun in my possession on campus, despite ORS 166.370, they can fire me. There is no other need for cause, and it is not necessary that I have presented a threat to my colleagues and students. Simple possession of a loaded handgun on my person is Ipso Facto grounds for dismissal. I am not sanguine.

I have attempted to contact Jeffery Maxwell for his side of the story, though his University EMAIL address. He has not responded to my request for an interview, and I have no way of knowing whether that is because he does not care to respond, or because his access to his campus email address has been restricted. I did not, however, receive a note that the address no longer exists. That does not rule out either scenario.

Mr. Maxwell, since I sent you the URL for this website, if you are reading this I do ask you to contact me and to agree to an interview ... either that, or answer the interview questions embedded in the email which I sent to you last week.
Most of this information was gathered as the result of an Internet search of the Western Oregon Journal website. However, there is no guarantee that the search results will remain consistent or that this URL is still active and valid.


Oh, and the response from The Western Oregon Journal?

Recent comments posted to the "Journal" Web site and letters to the editor have alleged that the "Journal" printed false information in the story "Mid-morning arrest startles students" which ran in the Feb. 4 issue of the "Journal."
The "Journal" realizes that a correction is needed. The subhead read "Individual brings weapons on campus in violation of state law," implying that the "Journal" believed Jeffrey Maxwell, in fact, violated state law. The subhead should read: "Individual brings weapons on campus in violation of state law, as stated by Monmouth police."
The "Journal" has no authority in interpreting state law and determining which law(s) take precedent over another. Therefore, the "Journal" has no comment as to whether the allegations and actions brought against Maxwell are in conjunction with state law or in violation of state law.

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