A University of Colorado discussion about guns on campus changed course Wednesday as at least a half-dozen people in the audience identified themselves as students with concealed-weapon permits and defended their right to bring firearms to school.
The vocal majority at last month's forum expressed collective dismay and concern over a Colorado Supreme Court decision that struck down CU's gun ban.
Top campus officials organized the second forum because concealed carry continues to be a hot topic on campus since the high court's ruling last spring.
This time around, several attendees expressed their support for the Supreme Court ruling, and some said they were concerned that concealed-weapon permit holders have been demonized by the campus community.
"As a permit holder, I don't feel that the university has a unified message. I almost feel like there's a harsh reaction towards me," said Steve Ojala, an MBA student. "I'm here to protect. I'm not a criminal. I don't have a background record. But I feel like I'm a criminal."
Provost Russ Moore said the campus has tried to communicate in its emails that the university is following the law.
"I think we've tried to be very consistent and certainly not tried to demonize anybody who is exercising their legal right on campus," Moore said. "There's certainly been an emotional swirl around the issue."
Elisa Dahlberg, who said she served in the Air Force and worked for a short time with the Aurora Police Department before attending CU, urged campus leaders to put together a colloquium so people can better understand students who carry guns on campus.
"People are always scared of what they don't understand," she said.
Samuel Flaxman, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at CU, said he doesn't fear students with guns and feels safe in the classroom, but he outlined other concerns -- such as why there is a culture on campus that says the classroom
is a place students ought to have guns and why students aren't allowed to bring toy Nerf guns to class but can bring weapons.
"We're hearing people who are pro-gun saying they feel threatened and harassed, and we're hearing people who are against guns saying they feel threatened and harassed ... Can we get to a point where we're not suspecting each other?"
Guns are allowed mostly anywhere on campus -- barring the dorms and university-owned Bear Creek apartments. CU has also set aside a limited number of housing units, standalone cottages and some rooms in Athens North that those with concealed-weapon permits can live as long as they lock up their guns in safes when they aren't home. So far, nobody has requested to live in any of those units, which become available in January, said Chancellor Phil DiStefano.
CU also bans people from bringing guns to ticketed events -- such as football games at Folsom Field or concerts at Macky Auditorium.
CU law professor Mimi Wesson said she takes issue with guns being allowed in her classroom but banned elsewhere.
"Why you would think that preserving the status quo for football games and concerts is more important than preserving the learning environment in my classroom and in my office, where a lot of learning takes place, is something I think I would like an explanation for, and I haven't heard one yet."
DiStefano responded that the large crowds at events -- including 50,000 fans in Folsom on game day -- mixed with drinking alcohol presented major concerns for him.
The chancellor also said that as university officials considered CU rules over the summer, they studied the policies of other universities.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Brittany Anas at 303-473-1132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. ___
(c)2012 the Daily Camera (Boulder, Colo.)
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1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan
on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)
2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires
In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).
2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller
In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.
2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional
In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.
Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings
Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:
Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.
Sikh Temple Shooting
On August 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page opened fire on a Sikhs gathered at a temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six and wounding four more before turning the gun on himself.