ST. LOUIS — A law professor sued Missouri University (MU) after he allegedly was barred from keeping a firearm in his vehicle. Three years later, the case is unresolved.
Royce Barondes, a tenured university law professor, filed a lawsuit against his employer in 2015 claiming his constitutional rights were violated in the incident. The university countersued a year later.
Three years later, the matter sat before Circuit Judge Jeff Harris on Wednesday to consider a state statute that permits employees to have firearms in their locked vehicles.
Professor Royce Barondes | www.law.missouri.edu
“The university’s counsel at the hearing asserted that this statute only eliminates criminal liability, but allows prohibitions enforced civilly,” Barondes told the St. Louis Record. “The university failed to harmonize this view with the express purpose identified in the legislative history.”
According to HB533, “this bill specifies that the state cannot prohibit any state employee from having a firearm in his or her vehicle on state property, provided the vehicle is locked and the firearm is not visible.”
After the university countersued Barondes in 2016, then-Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster also filed suit against the university, making the same claims as Barondes. Harris has been asked to consider both cases together.
“Statutes are expected to have operative legal effect,” Barondes said. "At the hearing, my counsel noted that the University has asserted that this statute, which states the state shall not prohibit an employee having a firearm in a locked vehicle while in the scope of employment, only eliminates criminal liability for some act taken by employees in the scope of employment.”
Violation of Barondes' Constitutional rights?
“As I understand it, on Wednesday the University argued in court that its regulation of firearm possession on all its property is entirely exempt from judicial review under Section 23 of the Missouri Bill of Rights,” Barondes said.
Citing the Missouri Supreme Court in Dotson v. Kander, 2015, Barondes noted the section expressly states: “Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny . . . .” before quoting the precedent.
“Considered the ‘most rigorous and exacting standard of constitutional review,’ strict scrutiny is generally satisfied only if the law at issue is ‘narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling interest,’” Barondes said of the definition based on Miller v. Johnson 1995.
“I believe the rule does not increase safety when I am at work,” Barondes said. “It also effectively disarms me off-campus, every day I go to campus, during all off-campus activities from the time I leave home for work until I return home.”
However, Christian Basi, director of media relations at the university, said campus safety is the ultimate goal.
“The University of Missouri is a special place of learning and civic engagement for students, faculty and other staff, and many visitors, young and old,” Basi told the St. Louis Record. “Preserving the safety of that environment is critical to the university and the state as a whole.”
Judge Harris did not offer a date as to when he will hand down a decision on the combined cases.