Students at the University of Colorado will be moving into their dorms and apartments this week, awaiting next week's start of the new school year. In addition to meeting their new roommates, registering for classes and signing up for extra-curricular activities, students will now have something else to deal with: Guns in campus housing.
As a proud graduate of the University of Colorado-Boulder, I am appalled by the state law that allows students to keep and carry weapons in some campus housing. I urge other CU alums to withhold financial contributions to the University so long as the law allowing this dangerous practice remains in place.
Further, as the mother of two teenage daughters who will be soon applying to college, my husband and I will not allow them to apply to CU so long as it continues this policy.
If enough CU alums and prospective parents (both Colorado and out-of-state residents) let University officials and state legislators know how they feel, it could pressure them to change this life-threatening policy.
After completing CU as an undergraduate, I went to graduate school and became a nurse practitioner, a profession I love and have been practicing for more than 20 years. I regularly see patients -- children and families -- hurt by senseless violence. The proliferation of handguns and other assault weapons is a serious public health hazard. The CU policy exacerbates this hazard by allowing students to carry concealed firearms on campus.
CU has a long, well-deserved, and unfortunate reputation as a "party school." It may or may not be much worse than many other universities and colleges, but it is well-known that CU students consume a considerable amount of alcohol, particularly on weekends. Now the deadly combination of alcohol and guns will inevitably result in accidents, injuries and perhaps deaths, no matter how careful the university promises to oversee or punish students (and, of course, their many visitors) who violate the rules.
According to the new policy, students with permits can stay in regular dorms, but can't keep their guns there. Students in what some are already calling the "gun dorms" will be required to put their weapons in safes in their dwellings when not carrying them.
The fact that the University is segregating students with gun permits in separate living quarters is no consolation. If anything, it may make matters worse, by concentrating the gun owners -- who are more likely to drink unsafely, too -- in the same living spaces.
Implementing this policy will be a nightmare and certain to be regularly violated, no matter how well-intentioned campus safety and housing officials are.
Nor am I persuaded that CU's stated policy of prohibiting students with guns to attend ticketed athletic and cultural events will avoid violent gun-related incidents that will lead to injuries and deaths. Now that the University has sanctioned having guns in campus housing, the entire atmosphere changes. Even if CU had a sufficient number of well-trained and well-equipped campus police officers, they will not be able to stop every gun-concealing student from entering an athletic event, lecture or concert, much less every classroom.
Press reports indicate that, according to University officials, less than one percent of students at the CU campus at Boulder (which has about 26,000 students) and Colorado Springs (with about 10,000 students) have a concealed-carry permit. Am I supposed to be relieved that as many as 260 and 100 students will be armed on those respective campuses? How many gun-toting students does it take to create havoc on campus?
I recognize that University officials are implementing this policy reluctantly. The Colorado legislature passed a law that allows those who are 21 or older, and who possess a concealed-carry permit, to carry a gun on campus. The state Board of Regents had voted to ban guns on campus, which the state Supreme Court over-ruled last March. The real problem is the gun lobby, particularly the National Rifle Association, its right-wing legal allies (such Mountain States Legal Foundation, which argued in court against the original CU ban), Students for Concealed Carry (a gun rights front group) and the Colorado state legislators, who bend to the will of the gun lobby rather than make common sense policy decisions that protect public safety and human lives.
After the mass murders by students at Columbine High School in 1999, by a suspected University of Colorado student at an Aurora movie theater last month, and other incidents in between, aren't Coloradans fed up with gun violence?
If they are not angry enough to push the state legislature to change its concealed weapon law, then perhaps other strategies are needed.
When other states have implemented outrageous policies -- around immigration, abortion or flying the Confederate flag -- national organizations have sponsored boycotts, cancelled conventions and other meetings, and encouraged Americans to avoid those states when making vacation plans. Perhaps a similar travel boycott of the entire state of Colorado is needed to force the state legislators to come to their senses.
Terry Meng is a nurse practitioner who lives in the Los Angeles area.
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