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Regents of the University of Colorado v. Students for Concealed Carry on Campus

March 5, 2012

THE REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO; STEPHEN LUDWIG, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS REGENT; JOSEPH NEGUSE, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS REGENT; MONISHA MERCHANT, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS REGENT; MICHAEL CARRIGAN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS REGENT; TOM LUCERO, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS REGENT; STEVE BOSLEY, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS REGENT; KYLE HYBL, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS REGENT; JAMES GEDDES, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS REGENT; TILMAN BISHOP, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS REGENT; JIM SPICE, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHIEF OF CAMPUS POLICE, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT COLORADO SPRINGS; PAM SHOCKLEY-ZALABAK, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO AT COLORADO SPRINGS; DOUG ABRAHAM, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHIEF OF CAMPUS POLICE, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO DENVER; AND M. ROY WILSON, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO DENVER, PETITIONERS
v.
STUDENTS FOR CONCEALED CARRY ON CAMPUS, LLC, A TEXAS LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY; MARTHA ALTMAN; ERIC MOTE; AND JOHN DAVIS. RESPONDENTS



Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No. 09CA1230

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Eid

Judgment Affirmed en banc March 5, 2012

¶1 The Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, LLC, along with Martha Altman, Eric Mote, and John Davis (collectively, the "Students"), filed a complaint against the University of Colorado's Board of Regents (the "Board of Regents" or "Board") and others alleging that the Board's Weapons Control Policy 14-I ("the Policy") - which prohibits the carrying of handguns on campus by all persons but certified law enforcement personnel - violates the Colorado Concealed Carry Act ("CCA"), §§ 18-12-201 to -216, C.R.S. (2011), and the Colorado Constitution's right to bear arms, Colo. Const. art. II, § 13. The Board of Regents filed a motion to dismiss under C.R.C.P. 12(b)(5), which the district court granted. The Students appealed, and the court of appeals reversed.

¶2 The court of appeals held that the Students stated a claim for relief because the CCA expressly applies to "all areas of the state." The court further concluded that the Students had stated a claim for relief under article II, section 13 of the Colorado Constitution, which affords individuals the right to bear arms in self-defense. See Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, LLC v. Regents of the U. of Colo., No. 09CA1230, --- P.3d ---, 2010 WL 1492308, at *7, *11 (Colo. App. April 15, 2010).

¶3 We granted certiorari and now affirm. We hold that the CCA's comprehensive statewide purpose, broad language, and narrow exclusions show that the General Assembly intended to divest the Board of Regents of its authority to regulate concealed handgun possession on campus. Accordingly, we agree with the court of appeals that, by alleging the Policy violates the CCA, the Students have stated a claim for relief. Because we affirm on statutory grounds, we do not consider the Students' constitutional claim.

I.

¶4 The Board of Regents adopted the Policy on March 17, 1994. The Policy prohibits "the possession of firearms . . . on or within any University of Colorado campus, leased building, other area under the jurisdiction of the local campus police department or areas where such possession interferes with the learning and working environment." The only exceptions are for "peace officers or for others who have written permission from the Chief of Police for those campuses which have such an officer or from the Chancellor after consultation with the Chief of Police." Any individual violating the Policy will be banned from campus; if that person is a student, the "minimum disciplinary sanction shall be expulsion." In justifying the Policy, the Board of Regents stated that firearm possession is "inconsistent with the academic mission of the [University of Colorado] and, in fact, undermines it"; "threatens the tranquility of the educational environment in an intimidating way"; and "contributes in an offensive manner to an unacceptable climate of violence."

¶5 In 2003, citing "widespread inconsistenc[ies] among jurisdictions," the General Assembly enacted the CCA to "occupy the field of regulation of the bearing of concealed handguns" and to "provide statewide uniform standards for issuing permits to carry concealed handguns for self-defense." § 18-12-201(1)(e), (2)(b). Under the CCA, when a permit is issued, the permittee is authorized "to carry a concealed handgun in all areas of the state, except as specifically limited" by the statute. § 18-12-214(1)(a). One specific limitation prohibits permittees from "carry[ing] a concealed handgun onto the real property, or into any improvements erected thereon, of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school." § 18-12-214(3). Section 18-12-214(3) does not include an exception for the University of Colorado campuses. A "local government" is prohibited from "adopt[ing] or enforc[ing] an ordinance or resolution that would conflict with any provision of [the CCA]." § 18-12-214(1).

¶6 On December 11, 2008, the Students filed a complaint in El Paso County District Court, alleging that the Policy violated the CCA and the Colorado Constitution's right to bear arms. *fn1 The complaint asserted that Martha Altman, Eric Mote, and John Davis wanted to possess a handgun when traveling to, from, through, or on the campuses of the University of Colorado for self-defense. Altman contacted the Chief of Police at the University of Colorado Denver requesting permission to carry a concealed weapon on campus, while Mote and Davis contacted the chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs requesting the same. Each asserted that they held a valid concealed-carry permit under the CCA. All three requests were denied, with the officials citing to the Policy.

¶7 The Board of Regents filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the Students had failed to state a claim for relief, which the district court granted. The court concluded that because the CCA prohibits only "local governments" from adopting or enforcing laws contrary to the CCA, and the Board is not a "local government," the Board was not divested of authority to regulate concealed handgun possession on campus.

¶8 In addition, the district court found that the right to bear arms is not a "fundamental right" and "can instead be highly restricted by the state's valid exercise of its police power." Consequently, the right to bear arms is "not subject to strict constitutional scrutiny," but is only subject to the "rational basis test" - an inquiry that the Policy "easily pass[es]." The Students appealed, and the court of appeals reversed.

¶9 On the statutory claim, the court of appeals focused on the CCA's plain language and its desire for statewide uniform standards to conclude that "all areas of the state" includes university campuses. --- P.3d ---, 2010 WL 1492308, at *2-*7. Accordingly, the court held that the Students' allegations, "when accepted as true, state a claim for relief that the [P]olicy violates the CCA." Id. at *7. On the constitutional claim, the court noted that the Students had limited their claim's scope "to the ability to possess a firearm in a motor vehicle when traveling on or through a University of Colorado campus." Id. On this question, the court concluded that, rather than the rational basis test, a "reasonable exercise" test applied. Id. at *11. Thus the Students' allegations did state a "claim for relief concerning the ability to carry a firearm in a motor vehicle when travelling on or through a University of Colorado campus." Id.

¶10 We granted certiorari*fn2 and now affirm. We hold that the CCA's comprehensive statewide purpose, broad language, and narrow exclusions show that the General Assembly intended to divest the Board of Regents of its authority to regulate concealed handgun possession on campus. Accordingly, we agree with the court of appeals that, by alleging the Policy violates the CCA, the Students have stated a claim for ...

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