By Seth Richardson
When it comes to the lawful carrying of concealed handguns on campus, the University of Colorado Board of Regents has been stubbornly resistant to either abiding by the law, respecting the constitutional rights of students, faculty, staff and visitors to its campuses in Boulder and Colorado Springs, or obeying the rulings of the Colorado Supreme Court.
For decades the University has ignored the requirements of a 1994 state law regarding the carrying of concealed weapons pursuant to a valid concealed carry permit on campus. The Regents stubbornly insisted that the University was not subject to the control of the Legislature or state law and that they could make up whatever rules they wanted. Even when the Legislature created a statewide comprehensive law regarding the carrying of concealed handguns in 2003, the Regents continued to flout the law with rules that flatly defied the new statute. The University was eventually sued by a group of students who objected to the continuing absolute ban on concealed carry.
While the Regents of the University are something of a power unto themselves when it comes to operating the University, it’s still a department of the state government and is under the general supervisory control of the Legislature, but it took a Colorado Supreme Court ruling to finally convince them that they are not an independent power.
In Students for Concealed Carry on Campus v. Regents of the University of Colorado the Court ruled that “citing ‘widespread inconsistenc[ies] among jurisdictions,’ the General Assembly enacted the CCA [Concealed Carry Act] to ‘occupy the field of regulation of the bearing of concealed handguns’ and to ‘provide statewide uniform standards for issuing permits to carry concealed handguns for self-defense.’ “ In legal parlance, “occupying the field” means that even home rule cities must bow to the state’s authority to exclusively regulate in that area.
Decided in March of this year, the Colorado Supreme Court held that the Legislature had “divested the Board of Regents of its authority to regulate concealed handgun possession on campus.”
But evidently even that clear declaration hasn’t gotten through to the Regents, who today announced new regulations for freshmen students and public attendance at events on campus that once again purport to ban and/or regulate concealed handgun possession on campus.
The rationale used this time is “contracts.” The University maintains that has the authority to limit the possession of concealed weapons in campus housing facilities as a function of landlord/tenant contract law. As expressed in an article in the Denver Post by Ryan Parker, Patrick O’Rourke, vice-president of the Board of Regents is quoted as saying, “In contrast to other public buildings, student housing presents a relationship that is essentially landlord-tenant.”
The same sort of rationale is used to justify banning concealed handguns at public campus events like football games and theater events. “We are treating that ticket purchase as a contractual agreement that you won’t bring your weapon to the venue,” says CU-Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard in Ryan’s article.
The problem with this reasoning is that while the concealed carry law explicitly permits private property owners to forbid concealed handguns on their property, the University is not private property, it’s public property, and that includes every single building on every campus, including dorms and sports venues.
Impeaching the supposed need to weasel around an absolutely crystal clear Colorado Supreme Court ruling is the University’s own claim that the number of over-21 students eligible to even obtain a concealed carry permit is only four percent at the Boulder campus. Ryan goes on to quote Tom Hutton, spokesman for the UCCS campus as saying, “Of the total UCCS student body population, which should exceed 10,000 this year, we estimate that less than 1 percent will have a concealed carry permit.”
Two questions come to mind from this information: What’s the problem that they are trying to fix, and what part of the Colorado Supreme Court ruling that the General Assembly has “divested the Board of Regents of its authority to regulate concealed handgun possession on campus” is unclear to the Regents?
© 2012 Altnews