Ballot campaign seeks gun ban on campuses

DENVER – Colorado voters will be asked to ban concealed weapons on college campuses this fall, if a new political group gets its way.

Safe Campus Colorado won the right Thursday to start gathering signatures to put its proposal, Initiative 49, on the November ballot. The initiative would overturn a Colorado Supreme Court decision that said college boards can’t ban concealed weapons on their campuses.

Ken Toltz, founder of Safe Campus Colorado, said he thinks most voters are not aware of the court decision.

“This is giving the voters of Colorado the opportunity to have a voice on public safety at college and university campuses,” Toltz said.

The secretary of state’s Title Board approved the ballot language Thursday, a step that gives Safe Campus Colorado six months to collect at least 86,105 signatures from Colorado voters to place Initiative 49 on the ballot.

Colorado’s concealed weapons law allows people with permits to carry concealed guns, except for in a few select locations, including K-12 schools. Initiative 49 would add colleges .

University of Colorado regents attempted to ban concealed guns on their campuses, but the Supreme Court struck it down in 2012.

Democrats in the Legislature tried to reinstate the ban as part of their suite of gun bills in 2013, but it failed in the Senate. The sponsor, Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, said he wouldn’t try again this year.

“I think we’ve been there and done that,” Health said.

But Toltz is hoping a petition campaign can do what the Legislature couldn’t. As a former professor and parent of two daughters in college, he says guns make campuses more dangerous.

The co-proponent of Initiative 49, Heather Coogan, is the former police chief of Denver’s Auraria campus, home to three colleges.

“I can say with certainty that allowing concealed guns on campus makes the job of police officers more difficult,” Coogan said in a news release. “Guns on campus create an intimidating climate and puts the safety of students, teachers and staff at risk.”

Gun proponents argue that concealed weapons actually make campuses safer by giving students a chance to defend themselves.