The University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs are both tweaking their student housing contracts following an unsuccessful legal battle. The UC Board of Regents previously had a university-wide ban on all guns, but gun rights advocates took the issue to the Colorado Supreme Court and came out on top.
Gun rights advocates argued that Colorado law should protect students who want to carry a concealed weapon on UC campus, even though the university ban prohibits it. At the time, Colorado law permitted the carry of concealed weapons in all areas of the state with three exceptions: elementary schools, secondary schools and public buildings with security checkpoints.
The court ultimately decided against the University, stating that the Board of Regents had overstepped its authority. As you might guess, University officials weren’t particularly thrilled about the ruling. Bruce D. Benson, the university’s president, said in a statement that they were “disappointed” but would “abide by the ruling and determine how it affects our campuses.”
The University of Colorado has followed the court’s instructions… kinda. They hope to continue the gun ban in a slightly different method by contractually obligating students to forsake guns.
Students with a concealed carry permit who are aged 21 and older will be given separate housing off campus, but “The main dorms on the main campus will not allow any concealed-carry weapons,” CU-Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard said. Students who live in on-campus housing designated for freshman will not be able to carry a weapon, and these agreements will also contractually prohibit students from carrying guns onto these premises.
Students who live in these no-gun zones and who legally acquire a concealed carry weapons permit will be released from the resident hall contract without financial penalty, but they will then be required to move to an off-campus residence.
One tiny loophole does allow students with a firearm to live on campus as long as they store their firearm with campus police. Students should be able to come by 24/7 to pick up or drop off their weapon.
Overall, this law should affect a very small number of students. Most students who live on campus are under 21, so they couldn’t acquire a concealed carry permit even if they wanted one. An analysis by the University of Colorado estimates that less than one percent of faculty, staff, and students on campus possess a concealed carry permit.
Campus concealed carry is a different story. The court ruling protects students with a concealed carry permit who want to carry a firearm anywhere on campus, which includes general campus buildings and classrooms. The only other exception is Folsom Field and any other ticked public performance venue. The university is treating the purchase of a ticket as a contract that prohibits the ticketholder from carrying a concealed weapon into the venue.
Students can begin moving into residence halls on Aug. 21, and classes begin about a week later on Aug. 27. This new policy is sure to come under scrutiny as gun-supporting students start filling the dormitories. Gun rights advocates are also putting the new policy under the magnifying glass. A member of the Students for Concealed Carry, Kurt Mueller, said, “We’re going to look into it further, but it’s not surprising that the campuses are trying to circumvent the Colorado Supreme Court ruling.”
This time, however, the university is confident that it has the law on its side. Patrick O’Rourke, vice president of the Board of Regents, said “In contrast to other public buildings, student housing presents a relationship that is essentially landlord-tenant.”
The court ruling has done little to settle the fierce debate over campus carry. It’s clear that gun rights advocates have won the battle, but the question of who will win the war is still up for debate.