MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Today at the University of Colorado in Boulder, students can officially move into their dorms. In addition to a new class of faces, the school is also implementing a controversial new policy. Students can now keep concealed handguns in some campus housing, so long as they have a permit. If they want, they can even carry them to class. The policy follows a Colorado Supreme Court ruling that overturned the school's previous campus-wide ban on guns.
From member station KUNC, Kirk Siegler has the story.
KIRK SIEGLER, BYLINE: Freshman chatter anxiously as they stream out of their dorms this week headed for orientation, as the marching band practices on a perfectly cut green field.
(SOUNDBITE OF A MARCHING BAND)
SIEGLER: There's a buzz and energy here you might expect this time of year. But watching all of this, University of Colorado-Boulder Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Deb Coffin, says one thing is different.
DEB COFFIN: It is legal now to bring your concealed carry weapon with you, as long as you're a permit holder and keep it concealed.
SIEGLER: The school reluctantly complied with the State Supreme Court ruling overturning a campus ban on all firearms. In Colorado, you have to be 21 to be eligible for a concealed carry permit. But if students have one, they can now bring their guns to class, the bookstore, this quad. However, according to the school's new policy, guns are still banned from sporting events and dorms.
Dorms, Coffin says, where all but a tiny fraction of students are freshman under 21 anyway, and most are just leaving the nest for the first time.
COFFIN: And we're actually more concerned about someone who's not experienced or trained in the use of a handgun getting access to one by accident or on purpose, and possibly causing injury to themselves or others.
SIEGLER: Though the school would prefer students with concealed carry permits not bring their guns into on-campus housing at all, but if they insist, they'll have to move to a graduate student housing complex at the far north end of campus.
JIM MANLEY: CU's policy, particularly as it applies to the dorms, is a policy in search of a problem.
SIEGLER: Jim Manley is the attorney who represented the students who challenged the university's gun ban back in 2008. And he wonders whether the new compliance plan would apply to, say, parents with concealed weapons visiting their children's dorm rooms. And anyway, Manley believes bans like these don't work.
MANLEY: The Aurora theater where the "Batman" shooting occurred also had a gun-free policy, but these policies don't disarm criminals, they disarm law-abiding citizens who see the sign and respect the law and say, I'm not going to carry in this place because the law doesn't allow it.
SIEGLER: Manley says students with concealed carry permits should have the right to protect themselves on campus if another mass shooting occurs. His clients brought their suit after the state passed a concealed carry law trumping local bans, but also in response to the Virginia Tech shootings.
JOE RAMSBURGER: For sure - snowboard, bike. Yeah, got all the necessities
SIEGLER: Joe Ramsburger, an incoming freshman from Florida, is unloading an SUV in front of Farrand Hall. He can understand why guns won't be allowed in his new dorm, but he says he can see both sides.
RAMSBURGER: Especially what happened in Aurora a couple of weeks ago, and you know, Virginia Tech, and all of the stuff that's happened on college campuses now that you never know what's going to happen. So...
CINDY ROSENTHAL: Yeah, it makes me very uncomfortable, sure.
SIEGLER: Most major universities still don't allow guns on campuses under any circumstances, which is just fine with Cindy Rosenthal of Scottsdale, Arizona, who's here helping her freshman daughter move in.
ROSENTHAL: Oh, I definitely would not feel safe if they allowed guns on campus, in the halls. I would not be comfortable with that at all.
SIEGLER: This is the first Rosenthal has heard that concealed weapons are now allowed on most of the campus. And it's not yet even clear how many students at this university, known for its liberal politics, will be impacted by the new policy. School officials say they've yet to field any requests from concealed-carry permit holders who want to bring guns to their dorm.
For NPR News, I'm Kirk Siegler.