Right to carry victory in Colorado: Students for Concealed Carry on Campus v. Regents

Colorado’s 2003 Concealed Carry Act provides that licenses issued pursuant to the CCA shall be valid “in all areas of the state, except as specifically limited”  by other portions of the CCA (such as the rule that CCA licensees can have a gun in the car when they are on K-12 school property, but may not carry the gun outside the car). Nevertheless, the University of Colorado refused to allow licensed carry on the university’s campuses, and maintained its policy of automatic expulsion or firing for any student or faculty member who violated the policy. CU likewise insisted on its right to forbid automobile carry by licensees whose east-west travel in Boulder took them through Colorado Avenue, a street which passes through the CU campus, but which is used by many persons who never stop at CU.

In a case brought by Mountain States Legal Foundation attorney Jim Manley, the district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims. The Court of Appeals reversed, and the Colorado Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Today, the Colorado Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision written by Justice Allison Eid, affirmed the Court of Appeals. The Court held that the CCA entirely preempts the University of Colorado’s power to prohibit licensed carry. The Court rejected CU’s theory that because the University is created by the State Constitution, the Concealed Carry Act could only apply to the University if the statute expressly mentioned CU.

Because the case could be fully decided on statutory grounds, the Court declined to address constitutional issues involving the right of self-defense (Colo. Const., art. II, sect. 3) and the right to arms (art. II, sect. 13).

The case was remanded to the district court for further proceedings.

Since the 2003 CCA, non-interference with licensed carry has been the practices at the campuses of Colorado State University (whose main campus is in Fort Collins). Since the April 2010 decision of the Court of Appeals, all other public colleges and universities in Colorado (except for CU) have acquiesced to licensed carry. Today’s decision removes the last hold-out, the last of the Colorado public institutions of higher education which was attempting to maintain a policy of segregation against people who exercised their civil rights.

I first met Jim Manley when he was President of the CU Federalist Society, and he invited me to campus to speak on the day of the SCCC “empty holster” protest against CU’s civil rights ban. As a MSLF, he has played a leading role in many important cases, but it is an especially impressive accomplishment for a young attorney from a small public interest law firm to win a unanimous state Supreme Court victory against an institution whose largest campus (Boulder) has an annual budget of over a billion dollars.

My amicus brief on behalf of the County Sheriffs of Colorado is here. The Supreme Court decision is here. [Link fixed.]