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University of Michigan campus gun ban upheld by Court of Appeals

Entrance sign to the campus of the University of Michigan.
The Michigan Court of Appeals has affirmed that U-M has the right to ban firearms on campus. (Ken Wolter /
  • University gun bans are constitutional, Michigan Court of Appeals rules
  • The case could go to Michigan Supreme Court
  • MSU, U-M, others ban firearms on school property, regardless of concealed carry permits

LANSING — The University of Michigan is entitled to ban guns on university property and can remain a gun-free zone, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

The case could be further appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.


A university is a “sensitive place” and “laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places are consistent with the Second Amendment,” Court of Appeal Judges Mary Cavanagh and Deborah Servitto wrote in a 14-page opinion.


“It is up to the policy-maker — the University (of Michigan) in this case — to determine how to address that public safety concern.”

The Friday ruling reaffirmed the court’s previous ruling in 2017. It stems from a 2015 lawsuit filed by Joshua Wade, an Ann Arbor gun rights advocate who openly carried his gun at the Pioneer High School choice concert in March 2015. The incident caused the Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education to ban all weapons from campus, The Detroit Free Press reported. 

Wade’s lawsuit challenged a similar ban at U-M, which bans all firearms on campus unless carried by law enforcement or the military. 

In his lawsuit, Wade claimed the policy violated his Second Amendment rights. Gun Owners of America, a gun rights advocacy group, supported Wade in a separate court filing in March, arguing the policy strips students of their ability to “defend themselves on-campus.”

The university argued the policy protects the safety of students, faculty members and all others on campus. Former Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens dismissed Wade’s lawsuit in 2015, stating that the state Constitution “grants the university the autonomy to promulgate its own firearms regulation.”

Despite claims that carrying guns on campus would increase public safety, “there is no evidence that the presence of guns would decrease mass shootings,” Cavanagh and Servitto noted in their Friday opinion.

U-M is “heartened” by the ruling, said university spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen in a Friday email. Steven Dulan, who represents Wade, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday. 

The opinion comes five months after a gunman killed three students and injured five others on the Michigan State University campus Feb. 13. 

The mass shooting sparked calls for gun policy reforms from student advocates, who urged state lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws and the MSU Board of Trustees to ban all firearms on campus.

U-M, MSU and other public universities across the state have similar policies banning firearm possessions on campus. MSU, for example, bans all open carry on university properties — including buildings and some public space outside — and prohibits concealed carry inside university buildings and entertainment venues, said MSU spokesperson Dan Olsen.


The university has not made changes to its gun policies and is watching the case “very closely,” Olsen said.

A month after the shooting, Michigan Democrats quickly passed a series of gun reform measures. Those include universal background checks for gun sales, safe storage requirements for gun owners and the “red flag” law, which allows a judge to order temporary confiscation of someone’s guns if that person is deemed a danger to themselves or others.

But lawmakers have not further limited where gun owners can carry firearms. The law generally allows gun owners to openly carry a weapon in public space, but concealed carry is prohibited on school property, dorms and classrooms of colleges and universities, among others.

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