College ousts Marine for legally concealed gun
Posted on Feb 19, 2009 by Paul Martin in Gun Rights | 1 Comment
‘Look, no weapons are allowed on campus, period’
By Chelsea Schilling
February 19, 2009
A Marine has been arrested, suspended from college and ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation for bringing a handgun and knife to campus – even though he holds a concealed carry permit issued by the state.
“They put me in cuffs as quick as they could and hauled me off,” Western Oregon University student Jeffrey L. Maxwell told Portland’s KATU-TV. “With my concealed weapons permit, I thought I was well within my rights to carry it. I never remember signing away my right to keep and bear arms.”
Campus police arrested Maxwell, a 30-year-old junior, Jan. 28 after someone reported seeing a knife in his pocket. Maxwell was cooperative when authorities detained him. When they asked if he had any other weapons, he politely informed them he had a loaded two-shot .22 caliber Derringer and pocket knives in his possession. He also said he carried a rifle in his truck.
Monmouth police took Maxwell into custody for violation of ORS 166.370, possession of a firearm in a public building. Kevin Starrett, president of the Oregon Firearms Federation, said Maxwell was forced to sit at the police station for three hours after the district attorney told police to charge him.
“The law is absolutely clear that Jeffrey was not doing anything illegal, and this district attorney doesn’t know that?” he told WND. “They can’t figure out to read three lines and one section of the law?”
Polk County District Attorney Stan Butterfield dropped charges against Maxwell Feb. 10.
“I believe the Monmouth Police Department issued the citation in good faith and that there was an arguable violation,” Butterfield wrote in an e-mail obtained by KATU. “However, a careful reading of the statute and the facts led me to conclude the charge was not in the best interest of justice.”
Nonetheless, a Western Oregon University student disciplinary panel has determined that Maxwell may not re-enroll at the college until a mental health professional determines that he is not a threat to himself or the public. The panel consisted of four unnamed students and one university staff member. Maxwell asked for a public hearing, but his request was denied.
“These were children on the panel who were judging him,” Starrett said. “These people were in elementary school when Jeff was serving his country in the Marine Corps. I looked at these kids thinking, these kids are judging this guy?”
As soon as the hearing was over, the panel closed and locked the doors, he said. Suddenly, nearly 50 people standing outside heard a burst of laughter coming from the room.
“We were like, ‘What the hell is going on in there?’” Starrett said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
The panel also demanded that Maxwell submit a 10-page essay on the importance of following the law, accepting responsibility for his actions and recognizing the impact of possessing weapons on a college campus before he will be allowed to return next spring.
University policy prohibits people from carrying weapons, even if they have state-issued permits. But Maxwell and his attorney are fighting the decision – saying the school’s rule undermines Oregon state law and violates his right to carry firearms into public buildings.
“They had no interest in the Oregon state law,” Maxwell told KATU. “They didn’t want to hear anything pertaining to the law. They only wanted to hear what was pertaining to the student codes of conduct.”
Starrett said, “It was clearly an effort to humiliate him. Every time someone exercises their rights they need to get their head examined? It’s unnerving stuff.”
Joe Hutchinson from Campus Public Safety told the Western Oregon Journal, the university’s student newspaper, that the Oregon University System policies are stricter than state regulations.
“We go one step further and say, look, no weapons are allowed on campus, period,” he said.
But Oregon State Reps. Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, and Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer, wrote a letter to Oregon University System Chancellor George Pernsteiner asking the college to discard policies that undermine rights of gun owners who possess permits, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
“I hope the universities will recognize that those with concealed handgun licenses are legally able to bring their arms on campus,” Thatcher said.
The Oregon Firearms Federation is demanding Maxwell reinstatement, an apology and compensation for the student. Maxwell has written a letter of appeal to the school.
“It’s a letter of his position on why they’re wrong, and that’s the process,” Starrett said. “That’s been sent. Now, what we’re expecting is just for them to blow it off, and then we file our lawsuit.”
When asked why he carried the weapons on campus, Maxwell said he was concerned about his and other students’ safety after the April 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.
“When Marines hear gunfire, we don’t run from it. We run toward it,” Maxwell told KATU. “I kind of thought of myself as one of the good guys – the one who, if something happened at school, was going to step in and save everybody else.”