Wednesday, February 18, 2009
The debate over gun rights has roared its head once again after a recent case involving a Western Oregon University student came to light.
Jeffrey L. Maxwell of Lebanon is a Marine Corps veteran and was, until last week, a full-time student in his junior year at Western. He has a license to carry a concealed handgun. On Jan. 28, while searching for a reportedly suspicious person, Maxwell was stopped by campus and Monmouth Police because he was "armed." Police found a knife as well as a handgun in his possession, and Maxwell was cited for carrying a gun in a public building.
No charges against Maxwell were filed by the Polk County District Attorney's office, which dismissed the case because they could find no wrongdoing by Maxwell. But, according to Maxwell's attorney, James Leuenberger, a WOU campus judicial affairs panel comprised of students and one school official last week found Maxwell "guilty" and has punished him by suspending him from school. To be reinstated, Maxwell must undergo a mental health examination to prove he isn't a threat to others and write a 10-page essay on the impact of weapons on college campuses.
The incident has garnered the attention of gun rights groups, politicians, the media, and the public. At question is whether rules Western and the Oregon University System has in place prohibiting weapons on campus violates Oregon Statue, which states that a Legislative Assembly is the only body that can regulate firearm possession by individual license holders.
Bringing guns onto a school campus like WOU isn't the smartest thing to do. For that, Maxwell deserves to be criticized. However, in this case, Maxwell did nothing wrong from a legal perspective yet has been found guilty by a panel of his peers that should have no authority in attempting to determine how to interpret the law.
Based on the information and facts that have been released to the public -- Western officials are not publicly commenting on the matter -- it is clear that Maxwell committed no crime. His only crime is having made some individuals on campus feel unsafe.
Until state law is changed, WOU and other universities should follow the law as it stands today. And because of that, the decision by the student judicial affairs board should be overturned.
Western officials owe Mr. Maxwell a public apology and should immediately reinstate him as a student in good standing.