The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Bilal Albert ANAIM, Defendant and Appellant.
Let there be light, not loaded firearms, at the University of California at Santa Barbara (University). So sayeth the University and the Legislature, respectively. Here we determine the reach of former Penal Code section 626.9 subdivision (a), now subdivision (h).1 As we shall explain, the statute prohibiting the possession of loaded firearms on the University grounds or campus applies to a university owned apartment complex located on grounds contiguous to the traditional main campus. We affirm the judgment and call upon the Legislature to clarify the phrase, “upon the grounds of any university or college campus,” for future cases.
On June 23, 1994, appellant possessed a loaded firearm in his residence at an apartment complex known as “Storke Family Student Housing.” This apartment complex is owned and operated by the Regents of the University of California. It is referred to as “off campus” because it is not located on the main campus. It is located west of Los Carneros Road with the remainder of “Storke Campus” and the main campus being to the east of Los Carneros Road. “Storke Family Student Housing” is geographically contiguous to the main campus. (See appendix.) Because of its location and the conspicuous signage declaring that the apartments are owned and operated by the University, no person entering “Storke Family Student Housing” could reasonably believe it was not part of the University grounds.
Trial Court Proceedings
Prior to trial, appellant moved for dismissal on the theory that former section 626.9, subdivision (a), applied only to the grounds of the University and that he had a right to possess a loaded concealable firearm in his residence. (§ 12026, subd. (a).) 2 Appellant argued that section 626.9's reference to grounds of the University was general and section 12026's reference to residence was specific. Thus appellant claimed he was entitled to the benefit of the specific rule allowing him to possess a concealable loaded firearm in his residence. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, ruling that section 626.9 was specific and that section 12026 was general, referring to residences located anywhere other than upon university grounds. We agree with the trial court.
Former subdivision (a) was recodified as present subdivision (h) as part of the “Gun Free School Zone Act of 1995.” (§ 626.9, subd. (a).) The former language of “grounds of any university” has been changed to “grounds of any university or college campus.” At first blush, the amendment does not appear to change the substance of former subdivision (a) because the phrase, “grounds of any university” is used. However, appellant reads the phrase “upon the grounds of any university or college” as modifying the word “campus.” We must reject this claim. We have consulted two dictionaries, both of which undercut appellant's premise. Campus is defined as “the grounds of a school, college or university” (American Heritage Dict. (2d ed.) p. 232, col. 2), or “the grounds and buildings of a university, college, or school․” (Webster's, New Internat. Dict. (3d ed.) p. 323, col. 3.) For purposes of resolving the present dispute, we equate the words grounds and campus.
This is not to say that the distinction between grounds and campus is fanciful. The Regents of the University of California own real property that is not associated with academic pursuits. Here, the jury was advised that the Sedgewick Ranch, located at least 10 miles away from the main campus, was classified by the University's Director of Housing, as being part of the grounds of the University. In addition, the University owns and operates free-standing apartment buildings in Isla Vista, an adjacent neighborhood. These building are not contiguous to the main campus. As indicated, we call upon the Legislature to clarify the phrase, “upon the grounds of any university or college campus,” for future cases.
Specific vs. General
Both parties claim that the rule recently restated in People v. Alberts (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 1424, 1428, 37 Cal.Rptr.2d 401, dictates a ruling in their favor: “ ‘It is the general rule that where the general statute standing alone would include the same matter as the special act, and thus conflict with it, the special act will be considered as an exception to the general statute whether it was passed before or after such general enactment.’ ‘The principle that a specific statute prevails over a general one applies only when the two sections cannot be reconciled. [Citations.]’ ” People v. Wheeler (l992) 4 Cal.4th 284, 293 [14 Cal.Rptr.2d 418, 841 P.2d 938].
Assuming that section 626.9's prohibition against all firearms and sections 12026 and 12031, subdivision (l ) allowance of firearms, deal with the “same matter,” (People v. Alberts, supra, 32 Cal.App 4th at p. 1428, 37 Cal.Rptr.2d 401), we believe that the former is the specific and the latter are general. Sections 12026 and 12031, subdivision (l ) generally permit the possession of concealable loaded firearms in a residence. However, this rule stops at the boundary of the University. That is where the Legislature has gotten specific. It has carved out the University for special treatment, curtailing the possession of loaded firearms. The thorny issue here presented is where to draw the boundary line.
The Boundary Line
Three cases shed light upon where the geographical boundary of grounds or campus should be drawn for purposes of section 626.9, former subdivision (a), now subdivision (h). First, in Walsh v. Dept. Alcoholic Bev. Control (1963) 59 Cal.2d 757, 31 Cal.Rptr. 297, 382 P.2d 337, our Supreme Court confronted the ever expanding nature of the University of California in the context of section 172. This section prohibits the sale of intoxicating liquor “ ‘ ․ within one mile of the grounds belonging to the University of California, at Berkeley․’ ” (Id. pp. 758–759, 31 Cal.Rptr. 297, 382 P.2d 337.) It recognized that the “ ‘․ apparent design [of both sections 172, 172 subd. (a) ] is to protect students in the formative periods of their lives from the temptations of alcoholic drink.’ [Citation.]” (Id. at p. 762, 31 Cal.Rptr. 297, 382 P.2d 337) Paying heed to the declaration of a rule which would recognize “practical workability,” (id., at p. 759, 31 Cal.Rptr. 297, 382 P.2d 337) our Supreme Court held that newly acquired grounds would not become a measuring point for the one mile rule. Instead, it declared that the grounds of the University “are to be limited to the traditional ‘main’ campus․” (Id., at p. 765, 31 Cal.Rptr. 297, 382 P.2d 337.) The Supreme Court mentioned, but did not resolve, the issue of whether a bisecting publicly owned street could sever the contiguousness of the University for purposes of the section 172 boundary line. (Id., at p. 763, 31 Cal.Rptr. 297, 382 P.2d 337.)
In Matter of Petition of Burke (1911) 160 Cal. 300, 116 P. 755, our Supreme Court considered the boundary of Leland Stanford Jr. University. It did so to construe the proper reach of Penal Code section 172a, prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquor within one and one-half miles of university grounds upon which are located the principal administrative offices. The Supreme Court carefully excluded application of section 172a to “․ any outlying grounds or campuses․” (Id., at p. 306, 116 P. 755.)
Similarly, Vanoli v. Munro (1956) 147 Cal.App.2d 179, 304 P.2d 722, construed section 172a and indicated that campus boundaries “․ could not include noncontiguous lands․” (Id., at p. 185, 304 P.2d 722.)
These three cases provide the underpinnings for the rule of “practical workability” we announce today: The boundary in section 626.9 encompasses the traditional main campus of the University and contiguous parcels owned by the Regents of the University of California. Bisecting public streets do not destroy the contiguous nature of the University for purposes of section 626.9. A person who arrives at the University should reasonably conclude that rules for the main campus would be the same for contiguous parcels owned by the University. Our construction of the reach of section 626.9 thus includes “Storke Family Student Housing.”
Reasonable vs. Absurd
Appellant mistakenly relies upon the rule articulated in Keeler v. Superior Court (1970) 2 Cal.3d 619, 631, 87 Cal.Rptr. 481, 470 P.2d 617: “It is the policy of this state to construe a penal statute as favorably to the defendant as its language and the circumstances of its application may reasonably permit; just as in the case of a question of fact, the defendant is entitled to the benefit of every reasonable doubt as to the true interpretation of words or the construction of language used in a statute. (Citation.)” This rule is but a variation of the maxim of jurisprudence which we here utilize: “Interpretation must be reasonable.” (Civ.Code, § 3542.)
Literal reading of the word, “grounds,” would lead to an absurd result. For example, in Walsh, the Supreme Court mentioned that the University owned service yards some distance away from the campus. (Id., at p. 764, 31 Cal.Rptr. 297, 382 P.2d 337.) Were we to credit the Attorney General's theory that the prohibition extends to “all land owned by the University, whether contiguous or not”, then it would be a felony to possess a loaded firearm in a University vehicle storage yard miles from campus. This would, indeed, be a “bright line.” One would only have to do a title search on the day that the firearm was possessed on any grounds owned by the University. In our view, however, adoption of this theory would not be a bright idea. We simply do not think that the Legislature had so broad a sweep in mind.
Resolution of this appeal in appellant's favor would lead to an absurd result. If sections 12026 and 12031, subdivision (l ) follow students onto the University, then, logically, all of its dormitories, even those situated on the traditional main campus, could be turned into armed camps. This would undercut the letter and spirit of the rule prohibiting the possession of loaded firearms on university grounds. The intent of the Legislature is to promote a safe environment for the ascertainment of knowledge, i.e., a “gun free zone.” Construction of the statutes in appellant's favor would create the antithesis of such an environment. This is not what the Legislature had in mind.
Finally, we read statutes in pari materia to achieve harmony when possible. (Unzueta v. Ocean View School Dist. (1992) 6 Cal.App.4th 1689, 1695, 8 Cal.Rptr.2d 614.) When so viewed, it is apparent that the Legislature intended that sections 12026 and 12031, subdivision (l ) stop at the boundary of the University. Our holding harmonizes the sections in a way that is consistent with Legislative intent.
We do not judge the wisdom of the statute. We only question where the Legislature wants to draw the boundary line for purposes of former section 626.9, subdivision (a), now subdivision (h). We decide the case by drawing a “practical workability” boundary line we think is consistent with decisional law as well as the letter and spirit of the statute. The Legislature, of course, is free to redraw the boundary line where it will.
The judgment is affirmed.
1. All references are to the Penal Code unless otherwise stated.Former subdivision (a) read as follows: “ ‘(a) Any person who brings or possesses a loaded firearm upon the grounds of, or within, any public school, including the University of California, the California State University, the California Community Colleges, or any private school providing instruction in kindergarten or grades 1 to 12, inclusive, or any private university or college, unless it is with the written permission of the school district superintendent, his or her designee, or equivalent school authority, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.’ ”Subdivision (h) now reads as follows: “Any person who brings or possesses a loaded firearm upon the grounds of any university or college campus, including the University of California, the California State University, the California Community Colleges, or any private university or college, unless it is with the written permission of the university or college president, his or her designee, or equivalent university or college authority, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years.”Penal Code section 626, subdivision (i) prohibits the possession of any firearm, even if unloaded, upon the grounds of any university or college campus.
2. Section 12026 subdivision (a) reads as follows: “Section 12025 [which generally prohibits the possessing of a concealable firearm] shall not apply to or affect any citizen of the United States or legal resident over the age of 18 years who resides or is temporarily within this state, and who is not within the excepted classes prescribed by Section 12021 or 1202.1 of this code or Section 8100 or 8103 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, who carries, either openly or concealed, anywhere within the citizen's or legal resident's place of residence, place of business, or on private property owned or lawfully possessed by the citizen or legal resident any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person.”Appellant, to some extent, also relies on section 12031, subdivision (l ) which reads as follows: “Nothing in this section shall prevent any person from having a loaded weapon, if it is otherwise lawful, at his or her place of residence, including any temporary residence or campsite.” Perhaps because of the phrase, “if it is otherwise lawful,” which is not present in section 12026, subdivision (a), this reliance is secondary.
YEGAN, Associate Justice.
STEVEN J. STONE, P.J., and GILBERT, J., concur.