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OUR VIEW: Gun ban would threaten students (video, poll)

ed Updated: February 20, 2013 at 12:00 am

Colorado’s House Democrats want to disarm screened, qualified, trained adults who carry concealed guns on public college campuses. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s pen will be the last hope if this ill-conceived bill gets through the state Senate.

“It would instill a lot of confidence in him if he were to veto it,” said El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa. “By doing so, he would show bipartisanship and common sense. He is a Democrat, but I think he has brought true bipartisanship to the governor’s office while remaining true to his party.”

Politically, a veto would benefit Hickenlooper and his party. Democrats have a long history of ending their winning streaks with overly aggressive gun-control measures. That’s why some Republican strategists secretly celebrate the latest gun-control movement.

More important than political considerations, gubernatorial opposition to the proposed gun ban would prevent a law that may only endanger students.

“If this becomes law, some of the most law abiding citizens in our state — concealed-carry permit holders — will obey the law and we will see a continuation of criminals not doing so,” Maketa said.

One common thread that links contemporary campus massacres: all were committed in gun-free zones that forbade concealed carry. At Virginia Tech, in a state known for a thriving gun culture, a lunatic killed 32 people and wounded 17 others — over the course of two hours. No one at the massive crime scene had a weapon with which to stop the killer. All but the maniac obeyed the gun ban that day.

One can legitimately call the local courthouse, or the secured area of any airport, a gun-free zone. That’s because security guards with metal detectors and other gadgets screen for guns. A campus with a no-gun rule and a sign, by contrast, is not a gun-free zone. It is a place in which law-abiding individuals have no guns. When we learn of a gun on a “gun-free” campus, it is usually because a suicidal criminal with aggravated murderous intent chose to commit the misdemeanor of ignoring a “gun-free” sign.

In El Paso County, Colorado’s most populous jurisdiction, Maketa’s office has issued more than 50,000 permits during his three terms in office. He knows of only one concealed-carry permit holder in the county’s history who has committed a gun-related crime and it didn’t involve anyone getting shot.

No mass shooter in the history of the United States has possessed a concealed-carry permit. That’s because permit holders are those who willfully put themselves on a government list after submitting to training, hefty fees and background checks. They are, inherently, the antithesis of criminals — people who avoid law enforcement. Most of them carry guns for the express purpose of protecting themselves and others against violent crimes. Keeping them from our campuses can only benefit criminals who seek to harm students and faculty.

And yes, permit holders do stop crimes. Right here in Colorado Springs, a heroic Jeanne Assam used her concealed handgun to stop a shooter who came into New Life church with multiple weapons and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition. At the Clackamas Town Center, in Portland, Ore., 22-year-old Nick Meli pulled his concealed handgun and pointed it at a mass shooter last December, leading the shooter to take his own life. Anyone who watches the news understands that armed citizens stop crimes in this country all the time.

Not all Democratic efforts to control guns are misguided. More background checks on gun transactions makes good sense. Background checks often keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, just as the rigorous process of issuing concealed carry permits finds people who are best qualified to own and handle guns. We want more background checks and applaud legislative efforts to implement them.

The Colorado Supreme Court has spoken to concealed carry on campus. It should be allowed in a state that requires sheriffs to issue concealed carry permits. For the sake of campus safety, not to mention political gain, we urge Gov. Hickenlooper to sharpen his veto pen in the event he encounters this dangerous bill.

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