- JUDGE DISMISSES BERKELEY ZONING CASE
- PURDUE WITHDRAWS RECOGNITION OF FRATERNITY
- SEARCH HELD UNREASONABLE
- INJURED FORMER PLEDGE SUES PHI GAMMA DELTA
- UPDATE ON CLS V. MARTINEZ
- SOCIAL MEDIA ALERT – FACEBOOK USED AGAINST RUSH CANDIDATES
- ARKANSAS DEMANDS INDEMNIFICATION
- STUDENT KILLED IN ACCIDENTAL SHOOTING AT FLORIDA STATE FRATERNITY
- DORMANT CHAPTER HOUSES
Newsletter > January 2011 > "STUDENT KILLED IN ACCIDENTAL SHOOTING AT FLORIDA STATE FRATERNITY"
STUDENT KILLED IN ACCIDENTAL SHOOTING AT FLORIDA STATE FRATERNITY
Daniel McCarthy, Manley Burke
Police were called to the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter house at Florida State University at 1:16 a.m. on Sunday, January 9, 2011. Ashley Cowin, a 20 year-old sophomore at FSU and a member of Chi Omega, was visiting friends at the fraternity chapter house. Evan Wilhelm, a member of the fraternity, was apparently showing off his rifle to several friends. As of now, it is unclear exactly what happened, but the gun accidentally discharged and Ms. Cowin was shot in her chest and died as a result of her injuries. Mr. Cowin has been charged with manslaughter.
That same weekend, Jared Loughner opened fire at a public event Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was holding in Tucson, Arizona. Representative Giffords survived the shooting despite being shot in the head. However, 6 innocent people, including a federal judge and a 9 year-old girl were killed. Mr. Loughner is in custody and has been charged with murder.
On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many more on the campus of Virginia Tech University in two separate shooting incidents. Cho committed suicide before he could be arrested. The Virginia Tech shooting is the deadliest shooting incident in American history by a single gunman.
Gun control has always been a hot button political issue. Following each tragic event, the national debate is revived. After the Virginia Tech shooting, the issue of guns on campus has received considerable attention around the country. For example, in Colorado, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, a national organization that pushes legislation to allow students to carry concealed weapons on college campuses, filed a lawsuit challenging the University of Colorado’s ban on weapons on campus. The Colorado Court of Appeals reversed an earlier ruling by the trial court that dismissed the lawsuit.1 The case is currently before the Colorado Supreme Court. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence has filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit.
The Brady Center, upon filing its brief, stated, “We urge the Court to allow the University of Colorado to protect students and faculty from the severe risks posed by guns. Parents should be able to send their children to college knowing that other students and visitors cannot be legally armed with semi-automatic weapons in dorm rooms, fraternity houses, and classrooms.”
On January 13, 2011, the Virginia Supreme Court handed down its decision in Digiancinto v. The Rector and Visitiors of George Mason University.2 In that case, the Virginia Supreme Court held that George Mason’s gun policy was constitutional. George Mason’s gun policy states:
“Possession or carrying of any weapon by any person, except a police officer, is prohibited on university property in academic buildings, administrative office buildings, student residence buildings, dining facilities, or while attending sporting, entertainment or educational events. Entry upon the aforementioned university property in violation of this prohibition is expressly forbidden.”
The Court upheld the regulation under both the Virginia Constitution and the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution, finding that due to the sensitive nature of campus, the regulation was properly tailored and was a reasonable regulation.
The issue of whether public schools can ban firearms on campus is sure to come up over and over again until and unless the United States Supreme Court more definitively weights in on the issue. While the issue of firearms on campus may be subject to legitimate constitutional debate, the issue of firearms in Greek houses is not. The 2nd Amendment does not apply to Greek organizations (remember, the Constitution protects against governmental action only). A national fraternity or sorority, or its chapters, can legally impose a rule against firearms on fraternity property and similarly a house corporation could provide for such a prohibition in its lease with the chapter. There is certainly no guarantee such a rule would prevent tragedies like the death of Ashley Cowan, but questions of liability will no doubt arise when weapons allowed in a chapter house are not controlled.
1 Students for Concealed Carry v. The Regents of the University of Colorado, Court of Appeals No. 09 CA 1230.
2 Digiancinto v. The Rector and Visitors of George Mason University, Case No. 091934.