Feb 082010
Authors: Forrest Orswell

Q: I’ve heard the ideological arguments about the campus weapons ban, but where do the two sides stand legally?

In December 2009, the CSU Board of Governors ordered CSU-Fort Collins President Tony Frank and CSU-Pueblo President Joe Garcia to draft a policy prohibiting weapons on both campuses. The drafts are to be presented to the board on February 23, 2010.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, at a recent on-campus press conference, promised to file a legal challenge over the specific issue of carrying concealed handguns on campus with a permit. Where do both sides stand legally?

Article VIII of the Colorado Constitution gives the BOG the power of “general supervision of (the institutions) and the exclusive control and direction of all funds and appropriations … unless otherwise provided by law.”

Colo. Const. Article VIII, Section 5. Additionally, Colorado Revised Statute (CRS) § 23-31-103 gives the BOG the power “to adopt all such ordinances, bylaws, and regulations, not in conflict with the law, as they may deem necessary to secure the successful operation of the university.” These grants of power, in the Constitution and in the statute, are broad. But both have limitations: “unless otherwise provided by law” and “not in conflict with the law.”

Opponents assert the “right to bear arms” as found in the Colorado Constitution, and a Colorado law passed in 2003, CRS §§ 18-12-201 to -216 (Concealed Carry Act or CCA). This Act provides that “A permit to carry a concealed handgun authorizes the permittee to carry a concealed handgun in all areas of the state, except as specifically limited in this section…”

In general, these limitations are for K-12 schools, private business and public areas with security in place. There is not a specific limitation in the section pertaining to college campuses. The statute also says, “A local government does not have the authority to adopt or enforce an ordinance or resolution that would conflict with any provision of (the CCA).”

On its face, there appears to be conflict between the broad grant of power to the BOG to regulate the university and the 2003 law authorizing a permit holder to carry a concealed handgun on a university campus.

Does one of these laws trump the other? Is the BOG a governmental entity and therefore precluded by the CCA from enforcing a policy in conflict with the CCA? How would such a policy be enforced at the university if it is not a crime to carry a concealed weapon under Colorado law?

A similar conflict has made it to court on a weapons control policy at CU-Boulder. In that case, the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus LLC, on behalf of three CU students, sued to overturn CU’s weapons ban.

In that matter, the policy of the university was upheld by a 4th District Court Judge stating that the CU Regents “acted lawfully and in accordance with their constitutional authority when they prohibited firearms on University of Colorado campuses.” El Paso County District Court, 2008CV6492. As of the time of this writing, an appeal is pending with the Colorado Court of Appeals. CU’s policy stands on CU campuses in the interim.

Forrest Orswell is a staff attorney for Student Legal Services. SLS is available to students needing help with their legal issues. Send your questions for this column to the Director of SLS, Kathleen Harward, at kathleen.harward@colostate.edu.

 Posted by at 4:23 pm

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