Thu August 23, 2012

CU Gun Policy Gets Mixed Reviews

Today is the official move-in day in the dorms at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and amid the buzz and energy typical for the campus this time of year, some students might notice one significant change.

“It is legal now to bring your concealed carry weapon with you, as long as you’re a permit holder and keep it concealed,” says Deb Coffin, CU’s vice chancellor for student affairs.

The school is now allowing students who hold concealed carry permits to keep handguns in their on-campus housing, a move that follows a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that overturned a campus-wide ban on guns that dated back to 1970.

The university reluctantly complied with the ruling, last week announcing a policy that allows for weapons in on-campus residences with conditions.

Guns are also still banned from sporting events and dorms, where Coffin says all but a tiny fraction of students are Freshman under 21 anyway, and most are just leaving the nest for the first time.

“We’re actually more concerned about someone who’s not experienced or trained in the use of a hand gun getting access to one by accident or on purpose possibly getting injury to themselves or others,” she says. 

The school would prefer students with concealed carry permits not bring their guns into on-campus housing at all, but if they insist, they’ll have to move to a graduate student housing complex at the far north end of campus.  

“CU’s policy, particularly as it applies to the dorms, is a policy in search of a problem,” says Jim Manley.

Manley, the attorney for the Mountain States Legal Foundation who represented the students who challenged the university’s gun ban back in 2008, says the new plan leaves unanswered questions.  What if parents with concealed weapons permit want to visit their children’s dorm rooms, he says.

Campus officials respond they would simply have to abide by the dorm’s rules just as anyone else would.

But regardless, Manley believes gun bans generally don’t work. 

“The Aurora theater where the Batman shooting occurred also had a gun free policy, but these policies don’t disarm criminals,” he says. “They disarm law-abiding citizens who see the sign and respect the law and say, ‘I’m not going to carry in this place because the law doesn’t allow it.’”

Manley says students with concealed carry permits should have the right to protect themselves on campus if another mass shooting occurs.

His clients brought their suit after the state passed a concealed carry law trumping local bans, but also in response to the Virginia Tech shootings. 

Due to tragedies like Virginia Tech, incoming Freshman Joe Ramsburger says he can see both sides.

“Especially with what happened in Aurora a couple of weeks ago, and you know Virginia Tech, and all of the stuff that’s happened on college campuses now, you never know what’s going to happen,” Ramsburger says, while unloading a car packed with suitcases, a snowboard and a bike.

But Ramsburger says he can understand why handguns won’t be allowed in his new dorm, Farrand Hall. 

So can Cindy Rosenthal of Scottsdale, Arizona, who is helping her freshman daughter move in nearby.

“I definitely would not feel safe if they allowed guns on campus, in the halls, I would not be comfortable with that at all,” she says. 

This is the first Rosenthal has heard that concealed weapons are now allowed on most of the campus. And it’s not yet even clear how many students at this university known for its liberal politics will be impacted by the new policy.

As of Tuesday, school officials said they had yet to field any requests from concealed-carry permit holders who want to bring guns to their dorm.

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