Colorado Supreme Court Says State Law Trumps University's Ban on Guns

March 05, 2012

Colorado's Supreme Court ruled on Monday that students and others who have permits to carry concealed handguns must be allowed to bring them onto University of Colorado campuses. But the court avoided striking down the university's blanket gun ban altogether.

The ruling, in a case brought by a group called Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, holds that the state legislature did not mean to exempt the university system from a 2003 law allowing permit holders "to carry a concealed handgun in all areas of the state," with exceptions only for elementary and secondary schools and public buildings with security checkpoints. The court noted that the legislature could have included an exception for university campuses too but did not.

The university had argued that its 1994 policy banning all firearms was permissible because the Board of Regents is granted constitutional authority to set policies for its campuses. But the court said it had recognized exceptions to the board's authority in prior cases.

The court did not, however, consider another, broader argument advanced by Students for Concealed Carry on Campus—that the universities' gun ban placed an impermissible limit on the state constitution's guarantee of a right to bear arms. The justices said that because this case could be resolved by deciding the statutory claim, they did not need to consider the constitutional question.

That leaves intact the rest of the university policy, which prohibits "possession of firearms, explosives, and other dangerous or illegal weapons" on the campuses.

Bruce D. Benson, the university's president, released a statement saying that he was disappointed by the court's ruling, but that the university would "abide by the ruling and determine how it affects our campuses." In addition to the main campus, in Boulder, the university has campuses in Colorado Springs and Denver, as well as a medical campus, also in Denver.

The case was being closely watched elsewhere, including at Colorado State University, which in 2010 backed away from a plan to adopt a concealed-weapons ban of its own.