Ransdell opposes KY court ruling on guns in vehicles

Cameron Koch

 Students and faculty at public Kentucky universities will be allowed to keep firearms in the glove box of their vehicles after a Kentucky Supreme court ruling last week.

The case arose after a graduate student and student worker at the University of Kentucky was fired for possessing a firearm in his car on campus, even though he possessed a concealed weapons permit.

Lawyer Greg Stivers, who represents WKU for many lawsuits, represented Kentucky’s public universities and the Council on Postsecondary Education during the trial. He argued that in order to keep campuses safe, the preference of Kentucky’s public universities is that there should be no guns allowed on campus.

The court’s ruling poses problems for the university. Deborah Wilkins, chief of staff and general counsel, said that the current policy is that firearms are in no way allowed on campus property, unless for special police purposes.

“What we’ll have to do is go in and modify our policy,” Wilkins said. “We will remove the language that says you can’t have a weapon in a vehicle parked on campus.”

Wilkins said the only way the policy will change is if the legislature amends the law to exclude weapons in parking lots, but that can’t happen until the general assembly next year.

“That’s a year away — the legislature’s not going to entertain any new laws until next January, so we’re going to have to deal with it at least to that point,” Wilkins said.

Though President Gary Ransdell said that, of course, the university will respect the court’s judgment, he didn’t agree with it.

Ransdell drew a distinction from a university campus and a town, and that just because something is allowed outside of a campus environment doesn’t mean it should be allowed inside.

“If you are looking for my first blush reaction to that, it’s of concern. A university campus is not a like a city,” Ransdell said. “An assault, or a robbery, we send out a text alert to everybody in our population. That doesn’t happen in the city of Glasgow, a city of about the same size, for example.

“We’re very proactive and very visible in alerting everybody in our midst when anything occurs. It must be a safe place, and my personal opinion — this is my personal opinion — there is no place for anyone on this campus to be carrying a firearm in their car or otherwise.”

Wilkins said she didn’t believe that the court ruling would have a major impact on safety.

“I think people who have weapons are going to have them regardless of what the law says. People who don’t have them are the same way,” Wilkins said. “I don’t think people are going out and saying ‘I’m going to get a gun because this law is changed.’”

Though it is unclear how much of an effect the ruling will have, Ransdell said the ruling could be a slippery slope, leading to unforeseen consequences.

“There are some things that are not quite clear: What if a car is unlocked? What if a car is left unlocked intentionally and a weapon is in that car? It adds to the challenge of the university police department,” Ransdell said.

“The next step — residences, residence hall rooms — there are some consequences, maybe some unintended. This is not an insignificant matter.”