Three faculty members at the University of Texas at Austin filed a lawsuit against the university and the state on Wednesday that asks a federal judge to block the state’s “campus carry” law before students return to the campus next month, The Texas Tribune reports.
Under the law, which was approved last year and takes effect on August 1, public universities will be required to allow holders of concealed-handgun licenses to carry their weapons inside most buildings and classrooms, with only limited restrictions. The president of UT-Austin, Gregory L. Fenves, personally opposes the law, but as required has approved rules for how it will be carried out on the flagship campus.
Mr. Fenves is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with members of the University of Texas system’s Board of Regents and the state attorney general.
The plaintiffs — Jennifer Lynn Glass, a professor of sociology; Lisa L. Moore, a professor of English; and Mia Carter, an associate professor of English — say in the lawsuit that they teach courses that touch emotional issues like gay rights and abortion, and that the possibility of guns on the campus could stifle class discussion and violate their First Amendment rights to academic freedom.
They also challenge whether the Texas law passes muster under the Second Amendment. The lawsuit argues that the burden is on state and university officials to show that the policy allowing the concealed carrying of handguns on campuses is “well-regulated.” It adds: “Current facts indicate that they cannot do so.”
The plaintiffs also contend that the current provisions for campus carry in Texas violate their 14th Amendment right to equal protection of the law, by forcing them to permit concealed carry in their classrooms.
They want the court to issue a temporary order blocking the law before the fall semester begins, on August 24, and to issue permanent orders that would prohibit any state law or regulation that would require them to allow concealed carry in their classrooms, or that would punish them for trying to bar it.
Neither the university nor the attorney general had any immediate comment on the lawsuit.
In a statement emailed to reporters, the group Students for Concealed Carry declined to comment on what it called the “absurd constitutional arguments raised by this lawsuit,” saying it would leave that response “to the nation’s legal experts.”
Antonia Okafor, the group’s Southwest regional director, is quoted in the statement in response to the lawsuit’s assertion that the Texas policy is “dangerously experimental.” That suggestion, she said, “is, on its face, laughable,” as concealed carry has been allowed elsewhere in Texas for more than 20 years. “To put it in terms these professors should understand,” she said, “the clinical trials are over, and campus carry has been shown to pose little risk to public safety.”