A professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder announced earlier this week that students who own guns under the state’s concealed-carry laws were prohibited from bringing them to his class.
But he was quickly rebuked by CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano, who said such a request would violate state law.
In an e-mail to faculty, DiStefano wrote: “I have the utmost respect for Professor Peterson, who is an old friend and valued colleague, but I want to make clear that if the student carrying the weapon has a concealed-carry permit, the position implied by Professor Peterson’s comments directly violates Colorado law and the operating principles of the campus.”
Jerry Peterson is a physics professor and chair of the faculty assembly. Neither he nor the university responded to requests for comment.
Jim Manley, an attorney at the Mountain State Legal Foundation, commended the university for standing up for the law.
“We’re very happy that CU is in that instance doing exactly the right thing in telling that professor that he cannot ignore state law and he can’t cancel class because one or more of his students decided to exercise their right to carry,” he said in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.
David Kopel, a gun policy expert with the Independence Institute, was also pleased with the university’s response.
“That was a ridiculous thing for the professor to say,” he said in an interview with The DC News Foundation.
Peterson’s comments came during a time of heightened attention toward gun policy issues at the University of Colorado. In March, the state supreme Court tossed out the university’s gun ban, ruling that Colorado’s Concealed Carry Act gave students the right to carry guns on campus. Then, in July, a UC-Denver student named James Holmes orchestrated a mass shooting in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. And last week, UC-Boulder administrators announced that they would create separate dormitory housing for students with concealed-carry permits, effectively segregating gun owners from non-owners.
David Burnett, a spokesperson for Students for Concealed Carry, said that designating separate buildings for students who have no ability to defend themselves is a dangerous policy.
“Gun free zones have let down this country time after time after time,” he said in an interview with TheDC News Foundation. “We have concerns about the college, any college, putting a sticker on the door saying guns are not allowed, and then announcing that fact, trumpeting the fact that your campus is a defense-free, target-rich environment.”
The movie theater where Holmes unleashed his attack was a gun-free zone. No one was technically permitted to bring guns inside the theater, but the policy was unenforced.
According to Burnett, gun free zones are only safe if they are strictly enforced.
“If the college wants to get serious about gun free zones, if they want to install airport style security to ensure that one guy is just as disarmed as the next guy, then we can talk,” he said. “But until they can guarantee my safety, they should not deny my ability to protect myself.”
Students for Concealed Carry plans to work with the university to find a solution that is mutually acceptable, and lawful.
“We want to talk with the college,” he said. “We don’t want to make this any more confrontational than it has to be.”
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