DENVER, Colo. – The Colorado Supreme Court ruled against the Colorado Board of Regents yesterday, March 5, holding that the Regents’ ban on students’ ability to carry concealed handguns on campus violated the Colorado Concealed Carry Act of 2003; the Court declined to address the students’ claims that the ban violated the Colorado Constitution’s right to bear arms.
While the prospect of gun-carrying students may evoke emotional concerns in some, the ruling is more about regulatory authority than an opinion on the propriety of the concealed carry rights.
Background to the decision in Case No. 10SC344, Regents of the University of Colorado v. Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, as set forth in the Supreme Court’s order, includes among other things the following:
In 2003, citing “widespread inconsistenc[ies] among jurisdictions,” the Colorado General Assembly enacted the CCA to “occupy the field of regulation of the bearing of concealed handguns” and to “provide statewide uniform standards for issuing permits to carry concealed handguns for self-defense.” Under the CCA, when a permit is issued, the permittee is authorized “to carry a concealed handgun in all areas of the state, except as specifically limited” by statute.
Those limitations include Colorado’s prohibition of carrying of a concealed handgun (1) into a place where the carrying of handguns is prohibited by federal law; (2) onto the real property “of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school” except in enumerated circumstances; and (3) into a public building at which security personnel and devices screen each entrant for weapons and subsequently the security personnel require any weapons to be left in their possession while the entrant is in the building.
The Colorado limitation statute, Section 18-12-214(3), does not include an exception for the University of Colorado campuses. A “local government” is prohibited from “adopt[ing] or enforc[ing] an ordinance or resolution that would conflict with any provision of [the CCA].” § 18-12-214(1).
… In enacting the Colorado Concealed Carry Act, the General Assembly found, the criteria and procedures for lawfully carrying a concealed handgun “should be consistent throughout the state to ensure the consistent implementation of state law.” … “necessary that the state occupy the field of regulation of the bearing of concealed handguns since the issuance of a concealed handgun permit is based on a person’s constitutional right of self-protection and there is a prevailing state interest in ensuring that no citizen is arbitrarily denied a concealed handgun permit and in ensuring that the laws controlling the use of the permit are consistent throughout the state.” … and that uniform standards be applied.
The Board of Regents adopted the Policy on March 17, 1994. The Policy prohibits “the possession of firearms . . . on or within any University of Colorado campus, leased building, other area under the jurisdiction of the local campus police department or areas where such possession interferes with the learning and working environment.” The only exceptions are for “peace officers or for others who have written permission from the Chief of Police for those campuses which have such an officer or from the Chancellor after consultation with the Chief of Police.” Any individual violating the Policy will be banned from campus; if that person is a student, the “minimum disciplinary sanction shall be expulsion.” In justifying the Policy, the Board of Regents stated that firearm possession is “inconsistent with the academic mission of the [University of Colorado] and, in fact, undermines it”; “threatens the tranquility of the educational environment in an intimidating way”; and “contributes in an offensive manner to an unacceptable climate of violence.”
The Court’s holding:
“We hold that the CCA’s comprehensive statewide purpose, broad language, and narrow exclusions show that the General Assembly intended to divest the Board of Regents of its authority to regulate concealed handgun possession on campus.”
The students also brought constitutional claims before the Court, but the Colorado Supreme Court declined to consider those claims upon affirming the students’ claims under statutory grounds.
Utah’s Concealed Weapon Act is similar. It allows anyone with a concealed carry permit to so carry throughout the state, subject to certain restrictions; those restrictions include certain prescribed secret areas, airports and any house of worship or private residence where dangerous weapons are prohibited.
Utah code also includes rights and restrictions to the board of the state system of higher education. Section 53B-3-103 of the Utah Code empowers the board to:
(i) enact traffic, parking and related regulations governing all individuals on campus and other related facilities owned or controlled by the institutions or the board; and
(ii) acknowledging that the Legislature has the authority to regulate, by law, firearms at higher education institutions:
(A) authorize higher education institutions to establish no more than one secure area at each institution as a hearing room as prescribed in Section 76-8-311.1, but not otherwise restrict the lawful possession or carrying of firearms; and
(B) authorize a higher education institution to make a rule that allows a resident of a dormitory located at the institution to request only roommates who are not licensed to carry a concealed firearm under Section 53-5-704 or 53-5-705.
In other words, the authority to regulate firearms rests with the state legislature, not with the board of the higher education system. So said the Colorado Supreme Court, when the issue was raised, so provides existing Utah law.
Click here for the full Colorado Court decision.
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.