In March, two years after adding Nerf guns to its list of banned weapons, CU was ordered by the Colorado Supreme Court to allow concealed-carry-permit holders to pack heat on campus. Now, CU-Boulder has announced new rules restricting access in undergrad dorms and at events -- but a spokesman doesn't think the regs will lessen the college experience for anyone with a CCP.
According to CU's Bronson Hilliard (disclosure: a longtime friend of yours truly), CU has nixed guns at football games, concerts and other ticketed events -- a policy CU's attorneys believe will pass muster in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling because tickets are contracts that people can choose to accept or not.
"Here's what I understand about it," Hilliard says. "The transaction of, for example, buying a ticket for a public event at CU is a transaction among equals. And as a result of that transaction, we're exercising the right to say no weapons in these venues even if you have a concealed-carry permit."
The concept's the same as it relates to undergraduate dorms, so weapons are not okay there, either. However, the contract for a number of family housing units will be amended to allow concealed-carry-permit holders to have guns there so long as they meet university requirements for storing them safely.
The latter worry is why dorms are still off-limits for guns, Hilliard maintains. "It's not so much that there are major concerns around concealed-carry-permit holders themselves. It's what would happen to their weapon in an undergraduate environment -- if they left their dorm unlocked and somebody else were to get hold of the weapon in that environment. That's one of the issues I think people are misunderstanding."
Likewise, Hillard notes that individuals must be 21 or older to have a CCP in Colorado, "and presumably someone who's 21 has already had a lot of their college experience. Most of those folks don't want to live with eighteen- or nineteen-year-olds in a dorm anyway. They'd rather be living with other more mature students who are further along with their studies in a graduate-housing environment."
In his view, then, the family-housing units that will allow CCP are "not an inferior product in any way in terms of the housing experience. So I don't feel it is at all discriminatory." Rather, he believes the approach "strikes a balance of honoring the individual rights of concealed-carry-permit holders and protecting the safety of a very large population of eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds who are living on their own for the first time."
Besides, he emphasizes that "people with a permit can carry their weapon into classroom buildings, laboratories, administrative buildings. They're free to move about the campus" while strapped.
CU spent a lot of time and resources fighting to maintain its on-campus weapons ban, so why risk more legal action -- something attorney James Manley hints at in a Boulder Daily Camera article on this subject -- with more regulations?
In response, Hilliard says that "with a decision of this magnitude, it's never made lightly. The process involved extensive legal discussion with our attorneys and extensive legal review, including doing some research into what other universities around the country have done, and how military bases accommodate concealed carry. We talked to Fort Carson and Peterson Air Force Base, as well as undergraduate students, graduate students, parents, faculty and staff. And then we had an extensive review that began in late spring, shortly after the Colorado Supreme Court decision, and it continued intensely throughout the summer. It's not an off-the-cuff decision."
Did the Aurora theater shooting -- allegedly committed by James Holmes, who was in the midst of withdrawing from a neuroscience program at CU's Anschutz campus in Aurora when the attack took place -- factor in?
"By the time the tragedy in Aurora happened, we were well into the process," Hilliard replies. "It certainly was a difficult emotional situation for all of us in the CU family, and we knew it would certainly factor into the news coverage of whatever our eventual decision was. But I don't think it would be accurate to say it changed the trajectory of the discussions at all. We were fully aware of all the scenarios that can come out of issues with firearms, both positive and negative."
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Nevertheless, Hilliard emphasizes that "we don't screen our students for having a concealed-carry permit when they apply to come here. The only way that comes to our attention is through the process of applying for housing. We're not doing anything to single out concealed-carry-permit carriers, and they can move freely around the campus."
More from our Education archive: "CU must allow real guns on campus two years after banning Nerf guns."