Organizers say they have collected half of the signatures needed for a November ballot measure asking voters to ban concealed weapons on public college and university campuses in Colorado.

Ken Toltz, founder of the group leading the ballot initiative effort, Safe Campus Colorado, said volunteers have collected signatures from nearly two-thirds of Colorado counties.

The 86,105 signatures needed for a ballot measure must be turned in to be reviewed by the Secretary of State by June 30.

"I am optimistic that we will be able to take this to the ballot," Toltz said. "I'm very optimistic that if we take it to the ballot, we'll win in the fall."

Toltz said his group feels that guns on campus are a danger to public safety and are distracting.

The ballot effort comes after the Colorado Supreme Court struck down a concealed weapons ban on University of Colorado campuses in 2012. An attempt by state legislators to ban concealed weapons at campuses statewide last year failed.

Part of the reason that legislative effort failed, Toltz said, is because of testimony from Amanda Collins, who talked about how a concealed gun may have allowed her to stop her sexual assault as it was happening on a college campus in Nevada.

Toltz pointed to last month's White House recommendations for how colleges and universities can better prevent and respond to sexual assaults, and said having guns on campus wasn't among those recommendations.

He said concealed weapon supporters are using Collins' testimony as a tactic to say that opponents are trying to disarm women and prevent them from protecting themselves during sexual assaults.

"Addressing the prevalence and risk of campus sexual assault shouldn't be tied into a concealed gun issue," Toltz said. "It's separate and politicizes something that we're not doing enough about. The statistics are really worrisome about how prevalent sexual assault is on college campuses. We're not doing enough, and handing out guns is not the solution."

Toltz said he wants to start a discussion about how to prevent and respond to sexual assault on campuses that doesn't involve guns.

In a phone interview with the Daily Camera, Collins said the argument for being able to carry a concealed weapon on public campuses has never been about preventing sexual assaults, but rather, being able to respond to an attacker if the need arises.

"I think everyone would agree that more needs to be done to prevent sexual assaults, however campus carry isn't trying to prevent sexual assaults," she said. "It's about allowing women to be able to protect their bodies and preserve their lives if they find themselves in that situation, which they continually do."

According to the White House recommendations, 20 percent of college women are sexually assaulted.

Katherine Whitney, who graduated from CU's law school last week and is a concealed carry permit holder, said for women who have been sexually assaulted in the past, carrying a concealed weapon on campus may help them feel less vulnerable.

"There are women in this state who have been raped on college campuses but have concealed carry permits and are still completing their degrees," she said. "It's very important that they are able to attend a university where they're permitted to carry on campus."

Only people 21 and older are allowed by state law to carry a concealed weapon, and private colleges and universities can decide whether to ban concealed guns on their campuses.

If the measure makes it onto the ballot and passes, it would add public colleges and universities to the Concealed Carry Act, a 2003 law that bans concealed weapons at K-12 schools, some federal properties and buildings with fixed security checkpoints, such as courthouses. Some have questioned the constitutionality of a ban if approved by voters.

Currently, guns are banned in dorms and at ticketed events such as football games and concerts on public Colorado campuses.

CU system spokesman Ken McConnellogue said the university is not taking a position on the proposed ballot measure.

"The safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors is a priority, and we are complying with all state laws that help us achieve that priority," he said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106 or kutas@dailycamera.com