Colorado Campuses are About to Become Less Safe – Bearing Arms

Colorado Campuses are About to Become Less Safe – Bearing Arms

For more than twenty years, licensed concealed carry holders have been able to exercise their right to carry on college and university campuses across Colorado, but that will soon come to an end. Starting on July 1, a new state law kicks in, and even those who possess a valid carry permit will face misdemeanor charges for bringing their gun into a “sensitive area”.

Under the law signed by Gov. Jared Polis, campuses will be “gun-free” going forward, although there is an exception for firearms that are lawfully stored in vehicles in parking lots. While the original bill included nearly two dozen new “gun-free zones”, many of those locations were scrapped before the bill reached Polis’s desk, but there are still several “sensitive places” that will soon be off limits to concealed carry holders. 

The ban, which takes effect July 1, includes the open and concealed carry of firearms, and it applies to public and private schools as well as colleges, universities and child care centers. It contains exemptions for law enforcement, military and security personnel, along with some others who carry guns as part of their official duties. Permitted concealed-carry permit holders can have a firearm in parking lots adjacent to banned locations. 

… The ban applies to the State Capitol and members of the General Assembly. During the debate, Republican lawmakers — some of whom carry firearms in the Capitol — questioned the constitutionality of applying the ban to them if it interferes with their ability to represent their constituents.

Local governments also may opt out of the ban for their jurisdictions. Douglas County’s Board of Commissioners did so by passing a resolution on May 14.

While local governments can opt out of the new prohibition, there is no exception for institutions of higher learning. Still, some regents of the University of Colorado don’t seem all that interested in formally changing their policy that allows for concealed carry. 

Regent Frank McNulty said he is opposed to the resolution, saying it’s “unneeded and unnecessary.”

“When we talk about men and women who have concealed carry permits, we’re talking about some of the most responsible visitors, staff, students that we have on our campuses,” McNulty said.

[Regent Wanda] James said she still believes in passing the resolution. There could be challenges with the state law, she said, and the resolution would clarify CU’s stance.

“I think this is an important piece for us to do and there are many universities that have taken this step,” James said. 

The resolution will appear on the agenda at the board’s next full meetings on June 20 and 21 in Pueblo. In committee, the regents reached a split 2-2 vote on the resolution, with Regent Ken Montera and Regent Mark VanDriel voting no and James and Regent Lesley Smith voting in support.

It’s true that campuses are generally safe places, but that doesn’t mean that they’re crime-free. In 2022, for example, Colorado State University reported 25 rapes, including 22 that took place in campus residential settings. There were at seven reported aggravated assaults, four instances of domestic violence, nine incidents of “dating violence” and more than a dozen incidents involving stalkers. Those were just the incidents that were actually reported to campus police, so the real numbers could be far higher. 

Anti-gunners can’t point to any problems with the current law, but that didn’t stop them from making it a crime for a concealed carry holder to carry a firearm with her as she walks across a darkened campus to her car after leaving an evening class. Concerned about a stalker? Well, if you’re lucky enough to live off campus you can protect yourself with a firearm at home, the grocery store, and any number of accessible places, but once you head to class you’ll have to be unarmed and defenseless. 

This won’t make campuses any safer. The only folks who are going to be harmed or bothered by the new restrictions are lawful gun owners. We already know that individuals intent on doing harm don’t care about violating campus policy, and the threat of a misdemeanor charge isn’t likely to dissuade a potential rapist or stalker bringing a gun with them when they carry out an attack. 

Colorado’s violent crime rate has crept steadily upward over the past twelve years, even as the state has adopted bans on “large capacity” magazines, “red flag” laws, repealed firearms preemption, and imposed universal background checks. This is yet another step in the wrong direction for the state, and I certainly hope there’s a legal challenge to the campus carry ban launched in the coming weeks, because prohibiting students, staff, and visitors to campuses from lawfully carrying is only going to make those locations more dangerous places. 

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