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Authorities at Colorado State University say they want to keep concealed handguns off campus. That's the goal of a policy they approved. And now they face the complexities of doing that in a state where concealed weapons are allowed. Here's Grace Hood of member station KUNC.
GRACE HOOD: Last December, Colorado State University's board of governors voted to ban concealed-carry weapons on campus. At the time, the associated students of CSU were the lone voice of dissent, but recently that opposition has gotten louder.
At a press conference on the Fort Collins campus earlier this month, Terry Ryan, of the advocacy group, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, says the university policy would violate Colorado's concealed-carry law.
TERRY RYAN (Rocky Mountain Gun Owners): If CSU persists in trying to ban firearms on this campus, a lawsuit will be filed.
HOOD: Standing aside Ryan is the region's county sheriff Jim Alderden. He says if the CSU policy is put into place, he will not jail anyone found guilty of violating it.
How does that work, legally? I mean, arent you required to enforce the law?
Sheriff JIM ALDERDEN (Fort Collins, Colorado): What CSU is trying to pass is a policy. And their position is that the university policy trumps state law and the U.S. Constitution.
HOOD: And you're saying?
Sheriff ALDERDEN: Absolutely not.
Mr. BRAD BOHLANDER (Spokesman, Colorado State University): Under Colorado law, campuses�do have the authority to implement weapons control policies.
HOOD: Brad Bohlander is spokesman for Colorado State University.
Mr. BOHLANDER: That's been demonstrated previously by just about every other campus in the state. Bohlander says the ban won't go into place until a specific university policy is approved. So far, CSU officials have been poring through public comment on a draft of the plan.
Right now, Colorado statute does not specifically address handguns on college campuses, and that's created some of the confusion in the CSU debate. Since the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, vague legal language has been a source of debate in other states, too.
Legislatures have introduced 56 bills in the last three years, aimed at specifically addressing concealed-carry laws on college campuses - either to allow or restrict carry. That's according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Vincent Badolato is a policy analyst for the organization.
Mr. VINCENT BADOLATO (Policy analyst, National Conference of State Legislatures): While there's a lot of talk about it, it doesn't seem that legislators are willing to move these bills along very far.
HOOD: In recent years, only one state has passed a law addressing the issue. In 2004, Utah began allowing faculty and students to carry concealed weapons on all of its college campuses. But the national debate continues. Both sides point to research they say illustrates that their policy would create a safer campus environment.
Inside the bustling student center at Colorado State University, the majority of students seem to agree with junior William Campbell.
Mr. WILLIAM CAMPBELL (Student, Colorado State University): Personally, I think that no public institution has a right to infringe upon our rights, which allow us to carry these guns.
HOOD: This is a viewpoint that students feel isn't being entirely heard by university leadership. Kirsten Silveira is a senior reporter with the school's newspaper,�The Rocky Mountain Collegian.
Ms. KIRSTEN SILVEIRA (Student reporter, Rocky Mountain Collegian): I think that is something that I've heard throughout my reporting.
HOOD: The university's board of governors will meet later this month to review language on its concealed-carry ban. At that meeting, they could finalize the process or decide to spend more time drafting the policy.
For NPR News, I'm Grace Hood.
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