MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Relying on its constitutional autonomy from state government, a committee of University of Minnesota regents approved banning guns from property owned or leased by the university, including the Metrodome when used for Gopher football games.
Final approval of the new policy was expected Friday at a board meeting.
Although the policy defies the state's new conceal-carry law, the six regents discussed the ban for only a short time before unanimously approving it. The rule, which will take effect immediately if passed by the full board, prohibits anyone -- including people with a gun permit -- from bringing a weapon to campus or to a university-sponsored event.
University officials told the committee that they were working on the policy before the Legislature passed the gun law in April. They characterized their action as simply bringing university rules into sync with those at seven other Big Ten schools. But there was urgency, too -- officials want to pass the new policy before the football Gophers play their first game of the season in the Metrodome on Aug. 30.
Sponsors of the gun law have said the university can bar only students and employees from carrying guns on campus or at university events. University officials were especially alarmed when they learned in April that the law would permit nonuniversity spectators to bring guns into the Metrodome for Gopher football games. Attorneys said the law gives professional sports teams and high school teams the right to bar gun-carrying spectators, but it does not give the university the same power.
University President Robert Bruininks was not at Thursday's committee meeting, but said two weeks ago that weapons have no place on campus or at any university function such as a football game. He called the policy "common sense."
University officials said they have the legal standing to bypass state law because under the Minnesota Constitution the university is independent from the state, giving regents responsibility for setting school policy.
Regent Peter Bell asked university General Counsel Mark Rotenberg what would happen if someone who had a gun permit obeyed the university's rule, left a gun at home and was attacked on campus.
"The university does not assume responsibility for criminal liability," Rotenberg said. "I do not see this policy as increasing the liability of the university."
Minnesota's other network of public universities, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, adopted a policy prohibiting students and employees from carrying concealed guns on campuses unless they are needed for educational or professional events. But visitors with permits will be allowed to carry guns on university property.
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