Students lobby for guns on Colorado college campus

Aug. 18, 2008
Group says gun free zones have proven to be 'ineffective'

A student group will try to convince the University of Colorado regents this week to loosen the school's gun-control rules and allow those with handgun permits to pack heat on campus.

The Colorado Springs chapter of the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus argues that gun-free zones on college campuses translate into a ban on self-defense.

The group's petition argues: "Gun-free zones have proven ineffective. Criminals do not respect gun-free zones any more than they respect human life. Gun-free zones only disarm victims."

The group is making its pitch to the regents as colleges across the

country grapple with how best to increase campus safety following deadly shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University. A proposed change to the university law surrounding firearms could pick up some traction on the conservative-heavy CU board, if a regent decides to take it up as an issue.

But the Boulder campus police department favors the university gun guidelines as they now stand, saying that allowing gun-permit holders to have weapons on college campuses could be chaotic.

The Board of Regents is not scheduled to take action on the matter at its meeting this week, said Deborah Mendez-Wilson, a CU system spokeswoman.

It is illegal for people other than police to bring firearms, explosives or other weapons

onto CU's campuses, according to Board of Regents policy. The university's policy goes further than state law, prohibiting even permit holders from carrying guns.

The rules also state that people can't have toys on the campuses that resemble guns or explosives.

The CU Board of Regents banned weapons in 1970 and, in 1994, strengthened its policy requiring that students be expelled and employees be fired if found guilty of using a weapon to "intimidate, harass, injure or otherwise interfere with the learning and working environment of the university."

The state Legislature passed a law in 2003 allowing concealed weapons to be carried by permit in most parts of the state, including college campuses, but then-State Attorney General Ken Salazar is

sued a formal opinion that the CU regents' order trumped the state law.

Eric Mote, a spokesman for the student group lobbying for gun rights, requested to speak with the regents about the dangers that the group sees on an unarmed campus, and he'll present the board with a petition seeking to change the university's guidelines.

The group says it does not want a gun in the hands of every professor and student but that it's "absurd" that someone can legally carry a weapon on the street but not come onto campuses without breaking the law.

CU Regent Kyle Hybl, a Colorado Springs Republican, said he is interested in the presentation, but he's not sure whether it's an issue the regents will take up.

"I think safety and security of students, faculty and staff is

always on the forefront of our minds," Hybl said.

CU Regent Michael Carrigan, a Denver Democrat, said he is opposed to allowing guns on campuses.

"As someone who has served in law enforcement and has firearms training, I don't think having students carrying guns on campus will make us a safer place," Carrigan said.

Carrigan, a former deputy district attorney, said he's worried guns could lead to casualties if they are used "inappropriately, dangerously or impulsively."

The CU Police Department is opposed to changing the university law, Cmdr. Brad Wiesley said.

"We think it's just not a good environment to introduce weapons into the crowded, high-occupancy area that a campus becomes," said Wiesley, adding that there can

be up to 40,000 people on the Boulder campus.

Three years ago, the College Republicans on the Boulder campus held a Second Amendment rally and circulated a petition in an attempt to get the rule changed so students and employees could conceal and carry firearms. The group's stance: College campuses can be dangerous places, and guns can prevent sexual assaults and other violent crimes.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or [email protected]