New university firearm regulations go too far
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 01:09
In March, the Colorado Supreme Court overturned a University of Colorado policy that banned concealed firearms on CU campuses. This allows anyone with a concealed-carry permit to bring a weapon onto university property.
Recently, the University of Colorado Boulder and University of Colorado Colorado Springs amended their student housing contracts and issued new rules for athletic and cultural events, banning weapons in freshman dorms and at ticketed events.
Though meant to promote safety on campus, the new rules are likely at odds with state law, are inconsistent with the university’s overall policy allowing concealed weapons on campus and create a dangerous situation for students.
After the March 5 Colorado Supreme Court and April 10 Colorado Court of Appeals rulings that the university may not limit concealed weapons on campus, school officials and administrators used the summer to pull together plans to regulate firearms on campus.
“The safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors is a top priority,” Chancellor Shockley-Zalabak said when announcing the new campus terms. “UCCS will implement all practices as directed by the CU Board of Regents with this priority in mind and in accordance with state and federal law.”
Colorado statutes for concealed weapons provide narrow restrictions on carrying firearms. As the spring rulings affirm, “A permit to carry a concealed handgun authorizes the permittee to carry a concealed handgun in all areas of the state” except as specifically limited in the statutes.
Limitations include being unable to carry in public elementary, middle, junior high and high-school buildings, public buildings that electronically screen those who enter and places where it is prohibited by federal law.
While safety is a top priority, the university has presented no real reason for why they want to regulate weapons in freshmen dorms and at ticketed events since concealed carry is allowed in all other parts of the university.
One can assume that the rules originate out of the fear that the close proximity in dorms and at crowded events creates an environment where those with limited firearm training might hurt more than they would help.
And some pro-gun student groups agree, based on interviews conducted by The Scribe during the spring.
But the constitutional ruling finds no exceptions for cases of freshmen housing or crowded university events.
By banning weapons in freshman dorms and at ticketed events, the CU system is still attempting to regulate concealed weapons, despite the Colorado Supreme Court expressly denying them of that right in its March ruling.
To obtain a concealed-carry permit, adults must be 21 or over, pass a full background check (criminal and mental health) and obtain both physical and legal training.
The vast majority of students living in freshman dorms are under age 21, precluding them from owning concealed weapons. Since concealed-carry terms already govern who can own a concealed gun, the university policy goes out of its way to try and limit weapons and advocate gun-free zones.
Appropriately, several have described it as a policy in search of a problem.
And consider this: Patrick O’Rourke, chief legal counsel for CU and secretary of the Board of Regents, said in an interview with The Gazette that the new university policy would likely not prohibit friends and family from bringing concealed weapons into the dorms, since they are not under the housing contracts. So not only is the rule unlawful, but it is impractical and ineffective.
Students who wish to live in non-freshman housing but retain concealed carry must keep university officials informed on the status of their permit.
Segregating those who lawfully own a gun, or creating an environment that allows for such segregation, alienates students and fails to promote the sense of community and safety one would hope to find on a university campus.
Many Second Amendment advocates point out that criminals target populated areas where they know that weapons are prohibited – as evidenced in past school shootings and most recently in the Aurora shooting.
In a column for USA Today, William Pendley – attorney and president of Mountain States Legal Foundation, which brought the case against CU – points out that gun-free zones “are free only of the guns owned by law-abiding citizens.”
Freshmen dorms and ticketed events should follow the same rules governing all other campus areas. Under the law, professors cannot stop concealed-carry holders from bringing weapons into classrooms or labs, something affirmed by CU-Boulder after one professor attempted to impart his own rules for concealed weapons under a “personal policy” of ending class immediately if he learned of anyone carrying a firearm – even legally – the Boulder Daily Camera reported.
CU-Boulder Chancellor Phil DiStefano was right to point out that professors “do not have the right to shut down a class or refuse to teach” in those circumstances.