Gun-free CU-Boulder dorms are target areas for criminals, student group says

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Gun debates at Boulder were first sparked by a Colorado Supreme Court ruling in March ordering CU to allow concealed-carry-permit holders to have guns on campus. More recently, the campus has made headlines for new rules announced last month that restrict students from having guns in undergraduate dorms and events, though they can still carry them pretty much everywhere else on campus.

These more recent changes have gotten a lot of attention in part because CU-Boulder announced that it would allow students to apply for family housing units where guns would be permitted, prompting some outlets to report them as segregated dorms for gun holders. That's not really the case, and last time we checked, not a single student had taken advantage of this policy.

And while CU-Boulder professors speaking at a town-hall style meeting this week expressed fears about students having guns on campus, the student group that pushed the university to lift the gun ban in the first place is more concerned with safety in the gun-free dorms.

"By having the dorms be the one place where guns are not allowed, you are creating a vulnerable area where criminals can target and where folks wouldn't be able to fight back," says David Burnett, director of public relations for Students for Concealed Carry, a national gun-rights group that filed a lawsuit against CU in 2008 arguing that the ban against concealed weapons contradicted state laws.

"Any criminal is going to go to a place that is easier for him or her to engage in an act of crime," says Burnett, 26, a 26-year-old University of Kentucky student. "Naturally, criminals will gravitate toward places where victims are defenseless."

He says he is pleased with the Colorado Supreme Court ruling allowing gun owners to legally carry their guns on campus, but remains concerned that the policy has essentially shrunk "the gun-free zone to a dorm-sized dot on the map."

"If I'm a criminal, I'm gonna home in on the one place where nobody can fight back, and right now that's the dorms," he says.

The restriction on dorms can also be frustrating for those with concealed-carry permits, he says: "I must forcibly disarm myself and abide by the dormitory gun-free zone, even though I'm a responsible, licensed individual."

In response to Burnett's concerns, Ryan Huff, a spokesman for the CU-Boulder Police Department, says campus dorms have always been safe and remain so.

"The residence halls have been free of guns since they were founded, so I don't think the announcement of there being a lack of guns in the residence hall really changes [anything]...from a security perspective," he says.

As we've noted before, concealed-carry permit holders have to be 21 or older, and the majority of students who live in the dormitories are younger -- so even if guns were allowed in dorms, it's likely that it would be a very small percentage of residents anyway.

Continue reading for more of CU-Boulder's defense of its safety record in dorms and classrooms.

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Sam Levin
Contact: Sam Levin