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Oregon University System won't fight gun ruling

ASHLAND — The Oregon University System will not appeal a court decision that overturned a rule banning guns on campus. The decision comes a week after the Oregon Court of Appeals said colleges across the state could not legally prohibit guns on campus.

The Oregon University System, which includes seven of the state's colleges — including Southern Oregon University — put the gun ban in its rule book in 1991.

The Legislature, however, argued that only state lawmakers could ban guns in public places such as college campuses.

OUS mulled fighting the appeals court ruling but decided against it, the organization said in a news release.

"While we feel strongly that the court decision is not in the best interests of our students and campus communities, we do not want to go through a long and costly process that may produce the same outcome," said OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner in a news release. "Instead, we have started work on internal processes that are already in place or that we can put in place that will maintain a reasonable and satisfactory level of campus safety and security."

OUS said some campuses already have policies that prohibit firearms in residence halls and at sporting events. The organization said it might look to expand these policies to other campuses.

Southern Oregon University prohibits firearms in residence halls and at sporting events, according to university spokesman Jim Beaver.

"This court decision will not change much in the way we handle firearms and public safety on SOU's campus," Beaver said.

Beaver said students who see someone carrying a gun on campus can call university police to check whether the carrier has a concealed-carry permit.

"If a student is uncomfortable, he or she can have a public-safety official confirm that a person is legally carrying a gun," Beaver said. "But if the person is found to have a concealed-carry permit, then he or she is allowed to have the gun."

Beaver said the university allows students who hunt or use guns for other sports to store them at the campus police station. The guns are kept in a locker until the student needs them, Beaver said.

"We do not allow firearms, or any weapons for that matter, in the residence halls," said Beaver, who explained that residence halls are not considered public spaces. Also, the licensing agreements on sporting-event tickets state that firearms or weapons are not allowed in stadiums or gyms during sporting events.

"When you buy a ticket, you agree to the terms printed on the ticket or receipt," Beaver said.

Beaver said SOU respects the decision not to appeal the court ruling and will follow the rules outlined by the state.

"We have never had a problem with weapons on campus," Beaver said. "And we don't anticipate this becoming a problem because of the court ruling."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-441 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.