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Guns in dorms: Why did Florida student stash weapons before suicide? (+video)

A student who apparently killed himself with a gun early Monday also had an assault rifle and explosive materials in his dorm room at University of Central Florida, authorities say. It's illegal to have guns on campus in Florida, but some other states now allow them.

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Five states have laws that allow concealed weapons on campus: Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin.

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Utah is the only state that specifically prohibits public colleges from banning weapons on campus. The state’s 10 public higher-education institutions allow concealed weapons on campus.

Although some schools allow people to carry concealed weapons on campus, that does not automatically mean students are permitted to keep guns in dormitories.

In March 2012, Oregon’s board of higher education approved a policy banning guns from classrooms, buildings, dormitories, and events, even though the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the longstanding Oregon University System’s ban of guns on campuses in September 2011.

The Colorado Supreme Court ruled last March that the University of Colorado was violating the state’s concealed carry laws through a policy banning guns from campus. In August, the university amended its housing contract to ask students living in residence halls to forgo bringing a gun to campus, even if they had a Colorado concealed carry permit. The university said it would accommodate permitted students in a separate housing complex.

“I believe we have taken reasonable steps to adhere to the ruling of the Colorado Supreme Court, while balancing that with the priority of providing a safe environment for our students, faculty and staff,” Philip DiStefano, chancellor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said in a statement at the time.

As of November, no students had requested to stay in those dormitories, the Denver Post reported.

Gun-control advocates say allowing guns on campus will make colleges more dangerous, not safer.

“It’s a bad idea,” James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston, told the Monitor late last month after a dorm shooting at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., left one student dead. That's “because college campuses are not rampant with crime, but they are rampant with alcohol and depressed students. Alcohol and depressed students and guns don’t mix very well.”

A group of higher education leaders sent an open letter to Congress in December, asking lawmakers to enact stricter gun regulations as a way to improve campus safety.

“As a group, we do not oppose gun ownership. But, in many of our states, legislation has been introduced or passed that would allow gun possession on college campuses,” the College Presidents for Gun Safety said in the letter. “We oppose such laws.”

Endorsed by more than 300 college leaders, the letter also called for Congress to address the link between mental health issues and gun violence: “We fully understand that reasonable gun safety legislation will not prevent every future murder. Identification and treatment of the mental health issues that lie beneath so many of the mass murders to which we increasingly bear witness must also be addressed.”

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