By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Colorado is at the center of a national debate concerning gun control, revolving around moves to ban guns at two of the state’s universities.
The most recent move comes as a proposal by Colorado State University’s public safety and president’s cabinet to ban students from carrying guns on campus. Their recommendation flies in the face of the students’ will, with the governing body voting 21-3 last week in support of keeping CSU a conceal-and-carry campus.
As the debate in Fort Collins continues, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is currently appealing a lower Colorado court decision that dismissed a suit filed last year by the group seeking to overturn the University of Colorado’s gun ban. Colorado State University waited until the CU decision before pursuing a change in its policy.
The CU ban prohibits students with state-issued concealed carry permits from possessing weapons on campus. CSU is considering similar prohibition.
A decision by CSU President Dr. Anthony A. Frank on the proposal is expected in the “near future,” according to campus spokesman Brad Bohlander. But Frank must first examine recommendations from both the student government and his public safety and cabinet members. He discussed the issue Friday with the campus’ nine-member Board of Governors, which voted unanimously to move forward with the ban.
Bohlander explained the proposal as one based on the fact that only a very small handful of universities across the country allow concealed weapons. In the 23 states that allow state universities to decide their own gun policies, almost all of them ban weapons on campus.
Michigan State University has allowed weapons since the summer and Blue Ridge Community College in Virginia has allowed weapons since 1995. Utah prohibits a ban on weapons at its state campuses.
“It really came down to two general issues: No. 1, best practices, just looking at what other universities are doing, and very, very few outside of the state of Utah allow concealed weapons on campus,” said Bohlander. “The second is risk management, and it really comes down to this university is responsible for managing risk on this campus É and the public safety team in the end felt more weapons, more access to weapons in such a densely populated area could potentially lead to more negative instances.”
Former Congressman Tom Tancredo, a Jefferson County Republican, has proposed a 2010 ballot measure that would ask voters to recommend to state leaders that they oppose all forms of gun restriction. Tancredo told the Denver Daily News that the issue is about self-defense, stopping “horrendous” incidents and protecting the Second Amendment.
He called the proposal by CSU staff “stupid.”
“Do you want to protect people, or do you want to be politically correct?” he asked. “Which is your goal?”
Critics of the ban point to the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech University, as well as other school shootings, including the Columbine Massacre right here in Colorado. Opponents argue that sociopaths who go on shooting sprees can’t be stopped, so citizens should be allowed to protect themselves and others.
“You do realize that there are about 300 million firearms in the United States in private hands,” pointed out Tancredo. “If the opponents of concealed-carry and of private ownership of firearms were right, every city in the United States would be Beirut.”
He adds that statistics indicate that gun violence in the United States has been going down over the last decade as gun ownership has been increasing.
But in weighing in over campus gun issues in Colorado, the Washington, D.C.-based Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence said the last thing students need is more guns surrounding them on campus.
“Our young people face enough challenges without having to face an influx of guns on campus,” said Jonathan Lowy, director of the anti-gun organization. “Most Americans would be rightly shocked if the universities to which they entrust their children were powerless to keep guns out of dormitories, classrooms and common grounds.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters