On Tuesday, Sept. 4, my office sponsored a campus town hall meeting at the University Memorial Center on issues related to concealed carry at CU-Boulder. I want to thank the 100 or so faculty, staff, students and community members who attended the meeting and shared their concerns and observations on implementing the law at CU-Boulder.
For those of you who could not attend, I wanted to share with you the issues that were raised and some of the responses offered by the panel, which included Chancellor DiStefano, me, Senior Managing Associate Legal Counsel John Sleeman, and Commander Robert Axmacher of the CU Police Department.
The overwhelming majority of participants in the forum made it clear to us that they don’t want concealed carry handguns in the classroom and they would either like to be empowered to remove them from the classroom and laboratory, or for the campus to take actions to get CU-Boulder exempted from Colorado’s concealed carry law, as are K-12 institutions.
Chancellor DiStefano, Counsel Sleeman and I all acknowledged these concerns. We reiterated that the university had made strong arguments in court on the right of the Board of Regents to regulate concealed carry on the campus, and that the Colorado Supreme Court disagreed with us and ruled that the law applies to the campus. We also explained in the forum the process by which we arrived at exceptions to concealed carry involving contractual arrangements for housing and the purchase of tickets at public performance venues on the campus.
We further clarified that there are no legal options for faculty to nullify the law by individual actions in the classroom: the mere presence of a concealed handgun – carried by a concealed carry permit holder in accordance with the law – is not a disruption or threat sufficient to justify cancelling classes. However, a concealed carry permit does not allow the holder to display the handgun openly or to act in a fashion to intimidate or threaten others in class. The chancellor also explained that individual faculty cannot create a special “event” fee for students applied to their classroom experience, as was suggested by one faculty member at the meeting, without going through the campus’s processes to determine if such a fee is appropriate or not.
On a similar point, I clarified that the university is required by state law to admit students to the university who meet admissions criteria and further, to admit them into classrooms. There is no similar obligation to admit people into football games or campus performances. I join the chancellor in the sentiment that it is not possible or desirable for faculty to charge class or “performance” fees on top of tuition simply to limit concealed carry permit holders from the classroom. The chancellor also pledged to continue to listen to campus constituents such as the CU Student Government and other groups who desire a legislative approach on the issue from now until the legislative session, and to facilitate a conversation with Boulder and other state lawmakers following the elections in November.
Other issues raised in the town hall meeting:
Is there a way for faculty to find out who has a concealed carry permit?
No. Each Colorado sheriff maintains a list of permit holders. Information about the list may only be shared with other law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes. There is no publicly available list of permit holders. A permit holder is required to produce his/her permit for inspection to a law enforcement official but the law does not require him/her to show the permit to others.
Can’t someone under 21 have a concealed carry permit if they’re granted one by the local sheriff?
The law allows a person between 18 and 20 to apply to receive a temporary 90-day permit, and can have that 90-day period renewed for additional successive 90-day periods until the person turns 21, if they can prove to the local sheriff that they are in imminent physical danger and need to protect themselves. However, the Boulder County Sheriff’s office has confirmed to the University of Colorado Police that they have never granted such a temporary permit
Since certain kinds of clothing are forbidden in laboratories due to safety and flammability issues, why can’t safety be a reason to ban concealed carry firearms from lab environments?
Unfortunately, as Counsel Sleeman reminded, the law does not contain exceptions for situations like this and the university cannot enact such a provision.
What about simply refusing to comply with the law? Doesn’t the flexibility granted to the institution legislatively over the past several years allow us the flexibility to do this?
The chancellor was clear that this is not an option. To nullify a state law we would have to become private, and to do this would require a constitutional vote by the people of Colorado to remove us from the state’s charter. Further, such an action would probably prompt a lawsuit and, potentially, a preliminary injunction prohibiting the university from enforcing any rules against concealed-carry. Again, we all emphasized that we are obligated to follow the law, and that if people don’t like the law, the thing to do is to work to change it legislatively.
What should faculty and instructors do if they see a concealed weapon in their classroom?
They can call 9-1-1 if they choose, but should be detailed in what they report. Commander Axmacher of the CU Police advised that callers take great care in describing whether a gun has merely been seen, or whether it is being actively brandished or fired. CU police will respond as quickly as possible, but how quickly depends upon the nature of the threat described.
In closing, we know our faculty, staff and students have concerns about concealed carry, and today’s town hall meeting gives us a more precise sense of what those concerns are. You have my pledge that we will continue to communicate to faculty, staff and students on the issue of concealed carry and on issues of maintaining safety and security in our teaching and learning environments – which is our top priority.