UM president testifies at guns on campus trial

MU guns on campus trial continues Thursday

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The bench trial for the University of Missouri lawsuit over guns on campus continued Thursday, starting with the University of Missouri Police Department chief taking the stand and ending with president of the University of Missouri System.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed by an MU law professor, was taken over by the Missouri Attorney General's Office in October and seeks to overturn a ban on carrying or storing guns on the campuses of University of Missouri System schools.

Circuit Judge Jeff Harris ruled in September that the ban does not violate state statute, but said the question of whether it violates the state constitution deserved more scrutiny, prompting this week's bench trial.

UM System President Mun Choi defended his decision not over overrule the guns on campus ban on the stand.

"There are a number of reasons (against overruling the ban), including the safety of our students and faculty and staff as well as creating the type of environment that promotes and preserves freedom of expression which is a core principle of the university," Choi said.

The state's attorney objected to the university lawyers' questions and Choi's answers dozens of times. He argued they were treating Choi as an expert witness, and that Choi was testifying with what other people had said instead of his own opinion.

Harris overruled every objection and motion to strike parts of Choi's testimony from the record.

University lawyers also called MUPD Chief Doug Schwandt to the stand Thursday morning. Schwandt said he opposed overturning the ban.

Schwandt said the presence of more guns on campus would eventually lead to more violent crime, accidental shots fired and more suicide. 

He also said it would make the job of university police more difficult in shooting situations, leading to possible misidentification of suspects. 

State attorneys questioned Schwandt Thursday about the current policy. Schwandt said it is hard to catch individuals breaking the rule by carrying firearms or storing them in vehicles.

The state also brought up exceptions to the rules, such as allowing students and faculty to store weapons at MUPD and an incident of allowing a staff member to have a weapon in their truck because of safety concerns of a stalker. 

Harris will issue a ruling in the case at a later date.

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