Jan. 27—The University of Colorado allows people to conceal and carry guns on campus, making it an outlier among higher education institutions nationwide.
Some students are demanding that be changed.
"It's insane that we allow individuals to carry a firearm into a classroom," Chase Cromwell, University of Colorado Boulder senior and student body president said. "There's a lot of evidence that talks about the negative impact that that has on student well-being and student mental health knowing that the student who sits down the row from you in class carries a firearm."
CU allows concealed carry on all of its campuses for those over 21 and with a valid permit, except in residence halls and special event zones like sporting events and concerts. The University of Colorado Board of Regents, the elected board that oversees all CU campuses, is charged with making all CU's decisions about its conceal and carry policy.
The regents declined to comment individually on the issue, instead allowing chair Callie Rennison to speak on behalf of the board.
"At this time, there are no plans for the board to take any policy-changing action," Rennison said in a statement. "However, we are monitoring discussions at the state legislature regarding this issue and how potential legislation could impact CU should state law change."
Concealed carry was banned on the CU campuses for more than 40 years until 2012, when a lawsuit was brought to the Colorado Supreme Court. The court ruled CU did not have the right to ban conceal and carry, and since then, it's been allowed on campus.
However, in 2021, the Colorado legislature passed Senate Bill 21-256, essentially reversing the Supreme Court's decision and allowing local governments and governing boards of higher education institutions to choose how to regulate concealed carry.
There is no statewide legislation in Colorado that bans concealed carry on college campuses.
Students call for a ban
Cromwell, after finding a lack of updated information online about conceal and carry on college campuses nationwide, conducted his own research. He looked at the top 500 schools by enrollment, according to 2021 data from the Department of Education, and researched each school's gun policy.
He found less than 20% of students attending the top 500 schools were on campuses where conceal and carry is allowed. He found 402 schools ban it campus-wide, nine were online only, seven have a special permitting process and 82 allow it. Of the 82 campuses that allow it, 29 of them are in Colorado.
"Florida bans conceal and carry in higher education settings statewide, as a matter of state law," Cromwell said. "Colorado wants to be progressive and talk about how we're being very forward about the role guns play in our society, but Colorado allows guns in our classrooms."
Freshman Karla Castillo said CU's conceal and carry policy is "inappropriate" and that the regents should change it.
"Especially this school year even, we've seen a lot of school shootings specifically in college campuses all over the country, so allowing students and anyone at CU to conceal and carry is honestly dangerous," Castillo said.
Paul Cyr, a CU Boulder freshman, said he doesn't see any reason people should be able to carry a gun on a campus filled with students.
"I don't think on any part of the campus it should be allowed," Cyr said, adding, "I don't see any usage for it."
Sophomore Dylan Kirkpatrick said conceal and carry should be banned and that "it feels weird" knowing it's banned in most schools but not at CU Boulder.
"What if someone just pulls up to a classroom with a gun and just has it on him the whole time?" Kirkpatrick said. "Yeah, I don't like that."
Cromwell said he's been in a classroom where he knew a fellow student did have a gun. Cromwell said he has "no idea" how often students conceal and carry in classrooms. He speculated that it's not as frequent as one person in every class, but that it might be happening more often than people know.
The University of Colorado Boulder does not track the amount of people who conceal and carry on campus. CU Boulder said it's not a matter of public record, and according to Colorado law, the personal information of permit holders is confidential.
"For today's college students, we have all been raised in an environment where we did school shooting drills in the K-12 setting. There are a large number of students at this campus who attended a school where a school shooting has happened," Cromwell said, adding, "They have experienced not just gun violence, but gun violence in their educational environments where they're supposed to be learning and trying to have an educational outcome."
'It's time for someone to step up'
The CU Independent, CU Boulder's student newspaper, reposted an opinion article on Wednesday advocating against gun violence. The article, written by students at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, was reposted across more than 50 college newspapers nationwide.
"Our own student government called on the Board of Regents to ban concealed carry on campus in October 2022," the editor's note said. "Since then, the Regents have quietly dropped the issue. The topic of concealed carry, while initially sparking anger from both sides, has returned to obscurity."
In October of 2022, CU Boulder's student government passed a resolution calling on the Board of Regents to ban concealed carry.
The resolution cites a 2016 incident at CU Boulder where a student made others uncomfortable by having a handgun. It also references a 2012 incident at CU Anschutz where an employee was showing her handgun to her colleagues when she accidentally fired it and struck another employee in the leg.
"Concealed or otherwise, guns have no place on higher education campuses," the resolution said. "Further inaction to address this issue reflects a failure of the Board's commitment to the well-being of both current and future generations of students and staff."
The resolution was signed by student government, CU Boulder's Staff Council and CU Boulder's Faculty Assembly.
In February, State Rep. Judy Amabile, D-Boulder, was one of 30 politicians who signed a letter to the regents asking them to reinstate the ban on concealed carry.
"We know that access to firearms substantially increases the likelihood of injury or death to both the individual in possession of the weapon and those in their communities," the letter read. "Rather than making our community safer, the decision to continue to permit the carrying of firearms on campus continuously risks the lives of our students, faculty and staff."
Amabile said people thought CU would jump on the chance to ban concealed carry after the senate bill was passed in 2021, but they haven't.
"It's not like we're seeing a whole bunch of people getting shot on campus, but I think it (would) send a message," Amabile said. "I think the faculty members would feel better, I think the staff would feel better, and I think a lot of the students would appreciate that."
In April, the Board of Regents invited safety experts from all four CU campuses to present at a committee meeting about general safety and conceal and carry. The presentation came after students and faculty asked regents to ban concealed carry during public comment at several board meetings.
"The general takeaway from the campus safety professionals was that conceal carry was not an overly prevalent security issue on our campuses, and based on this feedback, the board has not moved to make any changes to current policy," Rennison said.
Colorado Senate President Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, was one of the main sponsors of the 2021 senate bill that opened the door for CU to change its policy.
"I generally don't think guns have a place in the classroom," Fenberg said. "People should be able to learn in an environment free of worry that someone has a gun in their bag next to them."
Fenberg said he feels CU should be able to make its own decision on its conceal and carry policy, and the goal of the bill was to give city governments and boards of higher education institutions the choice.
"I do genuinely feel it's up to them, but I personally think (banning it) is the right thing to do," Fenberg said.
Democratic state Rep. Lindsey Daugherty, also a main sponsor of the senate bill, said she believes that the university should ban concealed carry. She said she had hoped it would've happened already, especially when so many students have come together and told the regents what policy they want on their campus.
"I think it's unfortunate that Colorado is in the minority of states that allows people to conceal and carry on a campus. I don't think that is a place for there to be guns," Daugherty said. "I know that when we passed this in 2021 we were really hopeful that campuses would take this and run with it and ban guns."
Cromwell said CU has an opportunity to be a leader among Colorado universities by taking the step to ban concealed carry.
"We're really hopeful that we see some more movement on this this spring, but it's time for someone to step up and take some action," Cromwell said. "It would be great if the regents could pull together and lead the state on this."