Gonzaga Students Facing Expulsion for Legally Possessing Guns in Private University-Owned Apartments

An interesting story from the Gonzaga Bulletin:

Roommates Erik Fagan and Dan McIntosh, both seniors, may be expelled this week after they used McIntosh’s pistol to repel a late-night trespasser from the doorway of their 207 E. Sinto Ave. apartment.

Fagan answered a 10:15 p.m. knock on their front door Thursday, Oct. 24. A friend having just left their apartment, he assumed the friend had come back. Instead, John Michael Taylor, a felon who showed them his ankle bracelet tracker in an attempt to intimidate them, faced him. Taylor asked Fagan for money, and became agitated when Fagan turned him down.

When he sensed Taylor might enter the apartment, Fagan yelled for McIntosh, who brandished his pistol, for which he has a concealed weapons permit….

Fagan, 21, and McIntosh, 23, rent their two-bedroom off-campus apartment, No. 5, from owner Gonzaga University. Complications arose after the men called both the Spokane Police and CAMPO to report the trespasser, in doing so declaring the pistol to SPD Officer Adam Valdez. SPD quickly apprehended the suspect, who was arrested on outstanding felony warrants. Valdez congratulated the students for safely warding off a possibly dangerous menace.

But according to the Gonzaga Student Handbook, students may not possess weapons on campus or university-owned property. This clause triggered an early-morning return by CAMPO and a residence director, resulting in the seizure of two guns, including a shotgun owned by Fagan. This occurred at 2:30 a.m., more than four hours after the initial incident….

The hearing on the alleged violations of the Student Code of Conduct is scheduled Friday morning with the University Discipline Board.

Fagan and McIntosh said they didn’t know about GU’s weapons policy. They said they didn’t realize that rules pertaining to on-campus conduct applied to the Sinto Apartments….

Even if someone had alerted him to the zero-tolerance weapons policy, McIntosh said that he wouldn’t have gotten rid of his pistol.

“I would’ve probably not have lived there,” McIntosh said. “I would’ve moved out … I do not feel safe, because it’s the Logan Neighborhood. It’s not a good place.”

Note that the relevant Gonzaga policy, linked to from the newspaper article, seems to be:

Possession, use, display, sale or exchange of weapons at any location on campus, including University residential facilities and privately-owned vehicles, is prohibited.

As I read the policy, it applies only to those residential facilities that are “on campus.” (Given that “privately-owned vehicles” must refer only to those that are “on campus,” I infer that “University residential facilities” likewise refers only to on-campus facilities, rather than expanding what counts as on-campus to include all University-owned facilities.) And I’m not sure that this apartment is on-campus, both by looking at a map of the area and by noting that another apartment on the same block (221 E. Sinto) is listed as “off-campus” on the Gonzaga rentals site. On the other hand, perhaps there is some specific lease term related to the subject that the newspaper story is missing (and some university policy that makes violation of the lease term not only grounds for eviction but also for expulsion).

I also wonder whether the middle-of-the-night visit and the seizure of the guns is consistent with Washington landlord-tenant law. I’m not at all an expert on that subject, but my sense is that landlords entry rights are fairly limited, given that the tenant is seen as being the owner of the present interest in the land for the duration of the lease; I’d love to hear what those who know more about landlord-tenant law, especially Washington landlord-tenant law, might say about this.

I should say that, as a general matter, I think private universities and private landlords should be legally free to impose no-guns conditions on their property, including student-owned apartments. But I would expect this to be set forth pretty clearly, given the general assumption that tenants and students are free to carry on lawful activities within the homes for which they pay good money, and given the general assumption in private universities that students — who pay good money for tuition, too — won’t be expelled absent a clear violation of the rules.