The fact that GMU is a school and that its buildings are owned by the government indicates that GMU is a “sensitive place.”
Further, the statutory structure establishing GMU is 9
indicative of the General Assembly’s recognition that it is a sensitive place, and it is also consistent with the traditional understanding of a university. Unlike a public street or park, a university traditionally has not been open to the general public, “but instead is an institute of higher learning that is devoted to its mission of public education.” ACLU v. Mote, 423 F.3d 438, 444 (4th Cir. 2005). Moreover, parents who send their children to a university have a reasonable expectation that the university will maintain a campus free of foreseeable harm. See Schieszler v. Ferrum College, 236 F. Supp. 2d 602, 606-10 (W.D. Va. 2002); Hartman v. Bethany College, 778 F. Supp. 286, 291 (N.D. W. Va. 1991).
The board of visitors is also tasked with safeguarding the university’s property and the people who use it by making “all needful rules and regulations concerning the University.” Id. Such necessary rules and regulations include policies that promote safety on GMU’s campus.
GMU promulgated 8 VAC § 35-60-20 to restrict the possession or carrying of weapons in its facilities or at university events by individuals other than police officers. The regulation does not impose a total ban of weapons on campus. Rather, the regulation is tailored, restricting weapons only in those places where people congregate and are most vulnerable – inside campus buildings and at campus events. Individuals may still carry or possess weapons on the open grounds of GMU, and in other places on campus not enumerated in the regulation. We hold that GMU is a sensitive place and that 8 VAC § 35-60-20 is constitutional and does not violate Article I, § 13 of the Constitution of Virginia or the Second Amendment of the federal Constitution.
Although I do not whole heartedly agree with the courts reasoning in defining the inside of a government building (GMU) as a 'sensitive place' simply because it is a place entrusted to be safeguarded by a government body, it at the very least differentiates between a 'sensitive place' and "a public street or park."