This week the Colorado Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether bans on having guns on campus are legal. All seven justices agreed to accept the case. The Colorado Court of Appeals in April ruled in favor of a gun-rights group that sued the University of Colorado. The gun-rights group argued that a 1994 university policy banning concealed weapons violates state gun laws.
Colorado State University officials rescinded its proposed ban on concealed weapons after the court’s ruling and the threat of a lawsuit from gun-rights groups. After the ruling, administrators of the state’s community college system repealed its concealed-weapons ban on its 13 campuses. Aims Community College, which is not part of the community college system, similarly revised its campus weapons policy for its five campuses.
The University of Colorado Board of Regents voted 5-4 in June to fight the appellate court’s decision. University officials and gun-rights advocates did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
At issue is whether the state law on concealed weapons applies to CU because it is a constitutionally created institution of higher education. The CU Board of Regents is part of state government but isn’t a local government like a city or a county, university attorneys argue. The 2003 Concealed Carry Act prohibits local governments from limiting concealed-carry rights. To obtain a concealed-carry permit, applicants must be at least 21 years old and must undergo an extensive background check.
A judge had previously thrown out the CU case in May 2009, saying he found nothing in the state constitution that would prohibit a campus gun ban. In that case, the judge wrote that guns on campus “threatens the tranquility of the education environment and contributes in an offensive manner to an unacceptable climate of violence.” But the appeals court sided with Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, which argued the CU policy violated the act as a local governing body.
Of course, since the appeals court ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court held in McDonald v. City of Chicago that a local gun ordinance restricting ownership of handguns violated the Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms. This new holding will make any local or state gun regulation much more suspect.