MOSCOW, Idaho -- The University of Idaho and one of its law students faced off in Latah County Second District Court on Wednesday afternoon regarding the university's ban of weapons in on-campus student apartments.
UI law student Aaron Tribble filed the lawsuit against the university in January and motioned for summary judgment in March. Judge John Stegner denied that request and set Wednesday as the final summary judgment hearing date.
Tribble and his family live in the university-owned South Hill Vista apartment complex on the UI campus in Moscow. In his lawsuit against the university, he alleges the UI's campuswide ban on firearms possession infringes upon his right to bear arms as outlined in the Idaho and U.S. constitutions. He also asserts the UI is in violation of a portion of Idaho Code that prohibits state agencies from adopting their own firearms or ammunitions regulations.
University attorneys, in their concurrent motion for summary judgment, assert that Tribble voluntarily waived his right to bear arms on campus by entering into the housing contract with the UI. They also argued that the university, in its status as a school and government institution, is a "sensitive place" where the right to bear arms is not unlimited.
During Wednesday's hearing, Tribble said the UI's policy prohibiting the possession of weapons in the South Hill Vista apartments puts his status as a student and tenant in jeopardy.
"The plaintiff has testified that these policies place him in fear of expulsion or eviction if he were to possess his firearms in his home, as he intends to," said Tribble, who is representing himself in the case.
He said the firearms ban violates Article I, Section 11 of the Idaho Constitution, which grants state residents the right to bear arms, in addition to its federal counterpart, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Tribble added that the alleged violation of Article I, Section 11, by extension violates his inalienable right to "enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing and protecting property; pursuing happiness and securing safety" as stated in Article I, Section 1 of the Idaho Constitution.
"I believe it naturally follows that a person cannot effectively defend life or property without the ability to keep and bear arms, especially in the home," Tribble said.
He said Article I, Section 1 implies that Article I, Section 11 grants residents an inalienable right to bear arms.
Kent Nelson, attorney for the UI, cited several examples from case law where individuals waived certain rights when entering into contracts. He said Tribble voluntarily approached the university about obtaining on-campus housing, and part of that process involved certain waivers.
"He promised the university he would not bring his weapons onto the housing premises," Nelson said.
He also pointed out that Tribble has voluntarily stored his weapons at the Moscow Police Department substation in the Idaho Commons on campus, a service that the university provides free of charge to students.
Nelson said Tribble could have chosen to not enter into the agreement with the university and instead secured housing somewhere off-campus within the city of Moscow -- somewhere that doesn't prohibit firearms possession.
"We are not the only source of housing, and we don't require Mr. Tribble to live on campus," he said.
He said "a promise is a promise," and it would be unfair for the university to have to change its agreement with Tribble as long as he maintains the terms of the agreement.
He said Tribble again voluntarily entered into a new housing contract with the university this year, after he had filed his lawsuit against the university.
"He made the same promise," Nelson said.
He said the university has a right to be concerned about safety and that previous judicial decisions support that concern's translation into actual policy.
He said the UI campus is a "sensitive place" where restrictions on firearms are justified, given the number of young adults and children who frequent university facilities.
"The government is replete with examples of regulation of weapons for the purpose of safety," he said, giving airplanes as an example.
Nelson said with the firearms ban, the university is "governing its own property in the fashion it sees best."
Tribble, in his rebuttal to Nelson's testimony, said the state of Idaho entered into its own promise with its residents when it enacted a constitution that guaranteed the right to bear arms.
"Now we see that promise being eroded," Tribble said.
Nelson declined the opportunity to reply to Tribble's rebuttal, and Stegner said he will issue a written decision in the case "as quickly as I can."
Holly Bowen can be reached at (208) 882-5561, ext. 239, or by email to hbowendnews.com. Follow her on Twitter: DailyNewsHolly
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