By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - The University of Colorado will allow students with concealed-carry weapons permits to keep guns at some off-campus housing but students cannot have them in dormitories, school officials said on Friday.
The new policy was in line with a court ruling overturning a university-wide ban on firearms that had been in place for years on the four campuses of the University of Colorado system. Law enforcement officers had permission to carry weapons on campus.
The announcement comes amid a nationwide debate on gun control after a gunman who police identified as a former University of Colorado graduate student killed 12 people when he opened fire at a suburban Denver movie theater last month.
Suspected gunman James Holmes, 24, had been a neuroscience graduate student at the school and was living in a privately owned apartment off campus when the attack took place.
University officials said students with gun permits who live on campus can request relocation to university-owned married and graduate student housing, where they can keep weapons provided they are safely stored when not being carried.
"Obviously, our prime imperative is to provide a safe learning environment," university spokesman Ken McConnellogue said. "This balances the requirements of Colorado law with that environment."
The housing policy applies to students who live at the two campuses with residence halls, Boulder and Colorado Springs.
But the university noted few students or employees will be affected.
At the Boulder campus, it said, less than one percent of students, faculty and staff have concealed-carry permits, and 96 percent of those living in dormitories are under age 21 and are ineligible for a concealed weapons permit.
The university will allow people with valid permits to carry concealed firearms in university buildings, with the exception of large, ticketed public events such as concerts and football games. Visible guns, knives and explosives are still prohibited.
David Burnett, spokesman with Students For Concealed Carry, a nationwide organization of college students that advocates less-restrictive gun policies on campuses, said Colorado's rule was largely positive, but it was still reviewing how the policy will be applied.
"We want safety and security that goes beyond (no firearms allowed) stickers on doors and the goodwill of criminals to abide by them," Burnett said. "James Holmes certainly didn't abide by the theater's no firearms ban."
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Cynthia Johnston and Jackie Frank)