Feb 162010
 
Authors: Jim Sojourner, Kirsten Silveira

CSU has been a safer place since late 2003, one CSU student found, when it decided to allow the university community to carry concealed weapons on campus –– a policy that could be holstered next Tuesday.

According to a report written by senior history major Brady Allen contesting the CSU System Board of Governors’ December decision to ban concealed weapons on campus, violent crime rates at CSU have declined since 2003. And although he could not prove a direct correlation between concealed carry and good campus safety, Allen said the decreasing crime rate speaks for itself.

“You can’t argue with it. The last six years have been the safest in CSU history and concealed carry is part of that,” Allen, who is not affiliated with any lobbyist or gun advocacy group, said.

The crime statistics analysis is just one part of Allen’s 12-page research document refuting the International

Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators’ position statement that the BOG used to justify its resolution ordering CSU President Tony Frank and CSU-Pueblo President Joe Garcia to draft weapons policies banning guns on campus by its next board meeting on Tuesday.

The order came after CSU’s Public Safety Team recommended the university ban weapons in the years following the deadly Virginia Tech and University of Northern Illinois shootings.

The policy mandate has been the subject of strife for gun advocates across the state, including Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden, who said he would not help enforce any weapons ban at CSU, and the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which said it will sue CSU if a ban goes into effect.

Concerned with the amount of what he called bad information on both sides of the argument, Allen said he set out to do his own research into the effects of concealed carry on college campuses. The endeavor ultimately led him to discover misinformation in the IACLEA’s position statement, he said.

“It’s so much easier if you stick to the facts, and right now, none that I was able to find support a public safety threat,” Allen said.

The IACLEA is a board comprised of officers and public safety officials from 15 colleges and universities. According to its Web site, it also represents about 1,200 educational institutions worldwide. In 2008, it released a position statement urging public policy makers to adopt policies banning concealed weapons on college campuses.

Allen forwarded his findings to the BOG earlier this month, but said it never replied. In a phone interview, the BOG’s chief spokesperson Michele McKinney said the board has not read Allen’s document.

She said a copy of Allen’s study has been forwarded to the BOG’s secretary, but said she couldn’t say whether or not the document would be part of the packet given to the board to review before its upcoming meeting.

“The board respects the differing views, and understand that those views will not go away,” McKinney said. “Their mind is set.”

In its statement “Concealed Carrying of Firearms Proposals on College Campuses,” the IACLEA said allowing concealed carry on campuses is likely to lead to more crime investigations involving firearms, more shooting incidents and ultimately more deaths from guns –– concerns McKinney said the BOG shared after hearing the university’s Public Safety Committee’s findings.

“(The board came to an) independent conclusion that weapons on campus, concealed or not, increase the risk and compromise the safety of the individuals the board is charged with protecting,” she said, adding that the BOG did listen to and engage in dialogue with students.

But Allen said most of the facts presented in the IACLEA’s position statement have little relevance to CSU’s situation because many of the studies it cites have to do with illegal weapons, not legal concealed carries, and underestimate the number of students capable of carrying a concealed weapon.

“It’s stuff that doesn’t apply, but they’re using it to justify a policy,” Allen said.

The IACLEA’s position states that, due to age limits requiring handgun owners to be 21 or older, only a small percentage of college students are eligible to carry firearms, negating their cross-campus self-defense potential.
Allen said CSU’s Fact Book lists a total student enrollment of more than 25,000 students, 48 percent of which –– or more than 13,000 –– are at least 21.

The IACLEA also cites two studies by Harvard professor of health policy David Hemenway, in which Hemenway and two colleagues found that gun-owning students often engage in excessive recreational drinking and then participate in risky activities including drunk driving, destroying property and other illegal behavior.

Allen said the surveys Hemenway’s studies are based on were conducted when concealed carry was not legal on college campuses and, more importantly, refer to illegal weapon ownership and the behavior of illegal gun owners.

Marlon Lynch, president of IACLEA, did not return phone calls or e-mails from the Collegian regarding the position statement or Allen’s findings.

Colorado doesn’t release any crime records concerning concealed carry, Allen said, so he instead looked at states that do have information publicly available such as Texas and Florida.

Texas’s concealed carry permit holders accounted for just 0.2 percent of the state’s criminal convictions –– 0.4 percent of the murder convictions –– over an 11-year span. Florida also had the same rate of concealed carrier criminal conviction over a 21-year period.

Bill Cates, a concealed weapon permit holder, gun etiquette course teacher and manager of Rocky Mountain Shooting Supply, said getting a concealed carry permit is easy, unless you have any kind of criminal record.

The application form, he said, asks a series of 14 yes-or-no questions that deal with everything from alcohol abuse to restraining orders and criminal offenses to mental health issues. If any of the applicant’s answers call into question their ability to responsibly carry a weapon, the request is denied. If the applicant lies, that alone is a felony, he said.

The Larimer County Sheriff regulates all permit requests and requires all applicants take an eight- to 10-hour course in gun etiquette like the one Cates teaches.

“There’s a lot of self-discrimination I can do, and if I don’t think everything’s right, I won’t pass them,” Cates said, adding that if students miss more than five questions on the final exam they fail the course, as mandated by the National Rifle Association.

And, if a concealed carry permit holder is convicted of even certain misdemeanors, such as domestic violence, the permit is revoked.

Furthermore, Allen said he found that, since 1995 when the CSU Police Department began keeping records of crime rates on campus, there have been no shootings involving concealed carry permit holders at CSU.

“To me, a firearm is a hammer, a band saw. Anybody who has taken a shop class knows the dangers involved in using the tools. The same goes for a gun,” Allen said.

For the complete text of Allen’s research, the IACLEA position statement and the BOG resolution to ban concealed carry on campus, go to Collegian.com.

Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira and Projects Editor Jim Sojourner can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:12 pm