Weapons: Concealed on Colorado Mountain College campus
The debate about allowing concealed weapons on university and college campuses has gone on for years. The University of Colorado — Boulder has been particularly involved, with its board of regents pushing to maintain a concealed weapons ban while certain groups of students have pushed back. Last spring, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the authority of state law, ruling that universities and colleges could not legally ban those with permits to carry concealed weapons on campus. The ruling affects colleges and universities statewide, including Colorado Mountain College, which maintains campuses in Breckenridge and Dillon. Since then, CMC has been working create a school policy addressing the issue.
“It’s a complicated law,” said Mark McCabe, assistant vice president, student affairs for CMC.
McCabe has spent the past year meeting with the school’s attorneys and visiting colleges around the state, researching what others have put into place to deal with the fact that concealed weapons, with a permit, cannot be banned from campus.
Unlike CU Boulder, which has continually fought to uphold its ban, the officials at CMC are more concerned with providing a set of detailed guidelines for the multitude of scenarios that can crop up with concealed weapons on campus grounds, McCabe said.
The Concealed Carry Act allows guns to be hidden from sight, meaning those nearby aren’t aware it’s there. A question McCabe and his colleagues have, then, is, “What do we do when we see it?” he said.
McCabe has a number of examples of everyday situations when a student having a concealed weapon could be tricky.
“Let’s say you’re in the nursing program and you have a permit to carry a concealed weapon,” he said. “Ok, well, you have that and let’s say you have that in your back, and it’s covered up with a smock. You are in the class, they’re going to be doing exercises where somebody has to give you the Heimlich maneuver or demonstrate something; it would expose your concealed weapon. Now what do we do? Or you’re a nursing student and you have to go into a hospital where you’re not allowed.
“So we’re thinking of these different scenarios so we can apprise people where you can or cannot have a concealed weapon if you’re a student at the college.”
All these questions need to be asked, McCabe said, so that if such a situation does arise, the procedures are clear.
“We have to think about these things before they happen in order to ensure that we’re not putting our students in harm’s way or unwittingly having them be in violation of the law,” McCabe continued. “Before we communicate everything to people, we want to do our due diligence so we’ve thought up every contingency and not unfairly deny someone the opportunity to have a concealed weapon on campus as well as being sure that we’re consistent with the law. That’s a fine balance.”
Colorado’s Concealed Carry Act of 2003 allows people 21 and older who have gone through a permit process to carry a concealed weapon to most locations. There are a few exceptions to this rule, including K-12 schools. The act does not, however, specify universities and colleges among the exempt locations. This was emphasized during the Supreme Court’s ruling last March. This year, House Bill 1226 was proposed, with the purpose of banning concealed weapons in buildings in use by public institutions of higher education. The bill passed the House and a Senate committee but did not pass at the Senate.
Like many colleges around the state, CMC followed the legislation closely. Now that it hasn’t passed, McCabe said the university is committed to continuing its research to refine its guidelines to walk the thin line between lawful requirements and student safety.
“We are all in the same predicament — how do we make this work?” McCabe said.
Some restrictions to concealed weapons on campus that may come up are whether they will be allowed in residence halls or ticketed events.
“I believe the most important thing is respect,” McCabe said. “We have to respect the law and then also respect other people who may be nervous around guns, so how do you balance that? I think it’s through education and talking with people about the rights of others.”
McCabe and other school officials will continue to work on refining the guidelines, which he hopes to roll out this summer and fall.
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