Regents divided on banning firearms from student housing

Board offers input to chancellors regarding possible courses of action

The University of Colorado Board of Regents passionately agreed that student safety on campus is a No. 1 priority. They passionately disagreed, however, on how that can or should be enforced.

In light of the March 5 Colorado Supreme Court ruling, which determined the board does not have authority to prohibit concealed weapons on its campuses, the board last week debated whether it would advise campus administrators to amend housing contracts to require students who have permits to carry concealed weapons to waive that right.

“Housing contracts are something the Board of Regents has generally delegated to campus leadership,” said Kyle Hybl, chair of the Board of Regents. “But we felt it important for the board to express its opinions for the direction of the chancellors concerning concealed weapons in housing.”

The regents took no action after their April 19 discussion, which came at the conclusion of the board’s two-day meeting on the CU Denver campus. Regent Steve Bosley said it's most appropriate for campus leadership to determine their courses of action.

Regent James Geddes said students with concealed carry permits should be allowed to keep firearms in student housing.

“The state of Colorado and its citizens, in their wisdom, have passed a law to take measures necessary for protection. Anything we do to modify that law on campuses, we have to do it carefully,” he said. Without students having the right to bear arms on campus, “Somebody can walk onto our campus, walk into many situations, and to our children and open fire. There is not a single such incident on a campus that has allowed concealed carry.”

Said Regent Sue Sharkey, “As a parent of two former CU students, most recently my daughter, my concern was for her safety.” Sharkey said her daughter was given a whistle at orientation. “It’s unlikely if she were being attacked that she would be saved by blowing a whistle. My public safety concern is not having guns on the campus.”

Regent Stephen Ludwig said he’s “not antigun, I own a gun. But as much as we don’t like to admit it, students like to experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex and adding firearms to that is a bad idea.” Regent Michael Carrigan also said he is not against gun rights, but that firearms shouldn't be in student housing.

Regent Joe Neguse, having lived in student housing at CU-Boulder a decade ago, said, “I would not be comfortable knowing that another student on my floor or in my dorm had a firearm.”

Regent Tilman “Tillie” Bishop said that prior to making any recommendations, one constituent group needed to weigh in. “We’ve heard from the NRA and gun rights groups and others – we haven’t heard from the mothers and dads. Maybe we ought to refer it to them to let them decide if this is a good idea or not.”

Regent Irene Griego agreed. “The parents who send their children to our schools send us their most precious gift. We have a responsibility to keep them safe. They should not be in fear of their neighbors,” she said. “I think it’s entirely appropriate for the chancellors to use their judgment, to use their discretion. If you amend contracts to disallow firearms in dormitories, I’m in support of that.”

Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak said more work needed to be done before determining any action on prohibiting firearms in student housing and, possibly, entertainment venues.

“The first thing that I hear is the safety of our students, faculty and staff must be No. 1 in how we approach this complex issue,” she said, adding that she plans to work with concealed carry advocates, student groups, military groups and parents before determining a course of action. “I want to be fully informed and make a decision that supports the safety of our students and upholds the laws of Colorado.”