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Regents vote to fight court decision allowing concealed weapons on campus

5-4 decision follows discussion of need to maintain board's constitutional authority

By Jay Dedrick

In the closest possible vote, the University of Colorado Board of Regents today voted to fight the court decision that allows concealed weapons on CU campuses.

The 5-4 vote allows the university to pursue an appeal of the decision by the Colorado Court of Appeals. In April, the court ruled in favor of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, a gun-rights group that sued CU over its ban of concealed weapons, which otherwise are permitted by Colorado law.

In comments leading up to the vote at the meeting in Boulder, Regents Michael Carrigan, D-Denver, and Stephen Ludwig, D-Lone Tree, identified themselves as gun owners. Carrigan called the matter "a very important case for regent authority." Ludwig said he was especially concerned by the idea of guns in the student housing environment.

"We all know what happens in dorms," he said. "Students are experimenting with sex, drugs and alcohol. Adding firearms to that mix, I think, is a horrifically bad idea."

Regent Tilman "Tillie" Bishop, R-Grand Junction, said he's not against allowing concealed weapons permits, but that he was voting to assert the constitutional powers of the university and its Board of Regents.

CU President Bruce D. Benson also mentioned his support of concealed carry in Colorado. "I've been a gun owner since I was 5 years old – I grew up on a farm," he said before the board voted. "I don't believe we should have any kinds of weapons on campus. I'm urging the regents to appeal this case."

Outgoing Chair Steve Bosley, R-Broomfield, launched the discussion, which also included public comment from university and community members on both sides of the debate, by emphasizing that the greater issue was not one of guns being allowed on campuses, but rather the board's ability to protect its authority. Still, he voted against appealing the case.

"You have to decide when to pick your battles," he said. "This is not a case I pick to pursue."

Regent Jim Geddes, R-Sedalia, said he did feel the vote was primarily about the concealed carry issue, and cited statistics that he said indicate rates of violent crime don't increase when concealed weapons are allowed on school campuses.

During a 15-minute period of public comment before the regents made statements, six people spoke – two in favor of the appeal; four against. One who favored the appeal was Noah Finkelstein, an associate professor of physics education research at CU-Boulder. He presented a letter signed by more than 70 faculty members endorsing the regents' autonomy. He also said he's against having weapons on campus.

"Lifting the ban on concealed weapons puts my students in jeopardy," he said. "I'm not comfortable teaching in such an environment."

After the vote, the Board of Regents issued a statement: "While individual members of the University of Colorado Board of Regents, like members of society, have differing views on the issue of concealed carry of weapons, the decision to appeal the case is about the board's authority to govern CU campuses as outlined in the Colorado Constitution. The board believes it is in the best position to make decisions about the learning environment on CU's campuses."

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