Siding with those who exercise their Right to Carry, the court ruled that a gun owned by a Right-to-Carry permit holder and kept out of sight inside a vehicle cannot be barred from university property. The court also held that any lawful gun owner can do the same if the gun is kept in the glove compartment of a vehicle and that university employees cannot be punished for exercising the same right.
In its opinion, the court closely followed the reasoning in the NRA’s “friend of the court” brief. While the ruling reflects an important win for all gun owners in the Bluegrass State, the decision represents a major victory in NRA-ILA’s ongoing efforts to ensure employees are able to exercise their right to self-defense on the way to and from the workplace.
The case began in 2009 when Michael Mitchell, a UK graduate student who also worked as an anesthesia technician at the university’s medical center, ran afoul of the university’s anti-gun policy after he admitted storing a firearm in his vehicle while it was parked on university property. UK’s policy prohibited possession of a gun on school property or while conducting university business. Mitchell was fired and the university fought to keep him from collecting unemployment benefits.
Taking his case to court, Mitchell argued that the firing was contrary to his right to bear arms as protected by Kentucky law, the Kentucky Constitution, and the U.S. Constitution. The Fayette County Circuit Court disagreed and upheld Mitchell’s firing. Following the disappointing ruling, Mitchell’s appeal found its way to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
In the court’s opinion, Justice Wil Schroder cites Kentucky’s public policy exception to “at-will” employment practices; an employer may not terminate an employee if the firing is contrary to a “well-defined public policy” or based on the “exercise of a right conferred by well-established legislative enactment.” The court determined that Kentucky law clearly “forbids a public organization such as a university, from prohibiting the possession of a firearm in a glove compartment of a vehicle.” Therefore, a person storing a firearm in the glove box of a vehicle cannot be fired or punished for exercising this right, even on university property.
In Mitchell’s case, there was some dispute as to whether the firearm was stored in the glove compartment of his vehicle, so the case required further analysis due to a conflict within the Kentucky statutes. One section of the statutes makes clear that a Right-to-Carry permit holder (such as Mitchell) storing a firearm in a vehicle is not to be interfered with by any public or private entity. But another part of the statutes allows colleges and universities to regulate such activity.
To resolve the conflict, the justices had to search out the intent of the Kentucky General Assembly in enacting these laws. Fortunately for Kentucky gun owners, the statute itself says “this section shall be liberally construed to carry out the constitutional right to bear arms for self-defense.” This led the justices to determine that any ambiguity in the law must be interpreted in favor of the rights of permit holders.
Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org