The Larimer County Sheriff will refuse to help enforce any concealed carry ban at CSU, student government officials said Wednesday, but permit holders packing heat and the Sheriff’s office have little to worry about if student government has any say in the matter.
At its weekly Senate meeting, the Associated Students of CSU passed a resolution supporting the school’s existing policy allowing concealed weapons on campus by a vote of 21-3, with one senator abstaining.
The controversial vote came on the heels of the university Safety Committee’s recommendation to ban concealed carry on campus and just one day before the CSU System Board of Governors is slated to discuss the issue.
During discussion of the resolution, Sen. David Ambrose, who helped draft the document, read an e-mail statement by Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden saying Alderden’s office would “not hold or detain a valid permit holder who violates that policy, nor would his department have anything to do with enforcing that policy.”
Alderden also said he did not believe unelected university officials have any authority to enact such a ban, which would “directly counter” Colorado law.
Ambrose forwarded the statement to the Collegian. The Sheriff’s office did not return calls Wednesday night.
According to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, only 23 states allow individual schools to decide their own concealed weapons policy, and CSU is just one in a shrinking pool of colleges in the country that still allow concealed carry.
Concern about the university’s current policy allowing weapons began to grow following the mass shootings at Virginia Tech University in 2007 and Northern Illinois University in 2008, prompting CSU’s Faculty Council to request a review of the policy last semester.
Despite recommendations to ban concealed weapons from the Safety Committee and his own cabinet, in ASCSU’s Nov. 11 Senate meeting, CSU President Tony Frank agreed to postpone any final decisions until student government reached a consensus. But ASCSU President Dan Gearhart pleaded with the Senate to vote on the resolution Wednesday so he would be armed with a formal student opinion during today’s BOG meeting.
Despite assurances from CSU spokesperson Brad Bohlander that the university would not reach any final verdict about a ban this week, in a phone interview, Gearhart said he pushed for a decision because “if the BOG decides to make a system-wide ban on the weapons, there’s a possibility they’ll do it tomorrow.”
Student government officials saw an outpouring of support for their resolution in recent weeks, including letters and e-mails from students and even state congressional representatives. They received no letters supporting a ban.
“I’ve talked to more than 200 people. Overwhelmingly, they had the ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ mentality,” Sen. Brook Bell said.
At the Nov. 11 meeting, fellow senators asked Ambrose to conduct a Student Voice survey to get a more accurate idea of student feelings for the issue, he said, but due to time constraints imposed by Frank and Gearhart, no such survey was conducted.
In addition to the supportive letters and e-mails, students and community members, who vehemently opposed any policy restricting concealed carries, filled the gallery, including a representative from the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners association.
“If the person knows they are going to be met with resistance, they’re less likely to do it,” said David Kelley, a junior history major who holds a concealed carry permit. “In reality, it’s the few protecting the many.”
But, senator for the graduate school, Maureen Newcomb, voted against the resolution and said she was asked to take the senate seat by her college council specifically to vote against concealed carry.
“Firearms are for killing people. They don’t have a place on a college campus,” Newcomb said.
Associate Sen. Eric Whittington also voted against the resolution because he said his constituents feel no safer knowing that fellow students are carrying weapons, and he doesn’t think a person can ever be “trained enough” to handle a gun in an emergency situation at such a young age.
“When it comes to people with firearms, how do you determine who’s the shooter and who’s the perpetrator?” he asked. “You can never know how you’ll handle (the situation).”
The final decision on a university ban will come down to Frank and ultimately the BOG, but Ambrose said he thinks ASCSU’s stance will resonate with the administration.
“We’ve seen the student support, and I think that will only get amplified if Tony Frank or the Board of Governors says it isn’t in the best interest of the students,” he said.