On Wednesday July 6th, three faculty members at the University of Texas at Austin filed a lawsuit against the university and the state. According to The Texas Tribune, the lawsuit asks federal judges to block the state’s “campus carry” law before students come back to campus in August.
The law, which takes effect on August 1st, requires public universities to allow holders of concealed-handgun licenses to carry their weapons inside most buildings and classrooms, with limited restrictions. Gregory L. Fenves, the president of UT-Austin, personally opposes the law. However, he has approved rules as required for how it will be carried out on UT-Austin’s campus. Mr. Fenves, members of the University of Texas system’s Board of Regents, and the state attorney general are all defendants in the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs are Mia Carter, an associate professor of English; Jennifer Lynn Glass, a professor of sociology; and Lisa L. Moore, a professor or English. In the lawsuit, they state that their courses touch upon emotional issues like abortion and LGBT rights. They believe the possible presence of guns on campus could stifle class discussion, thus violating their First Amendment rights to academic freedom.
The plaintiffs also challenge the validity of the Texas Law under the Second Amendment. They argue that the burden is on the state and university officials to demonstrate that the policy allowing concealed carry on campuses is being properly regulated. The plaintiffs also state that the provisions for campus carry in Texas are in violation of their 14th Amendment right to equal protection of the law because it forces them to allow concealed carry in their classrooms.
Carter, Glass and Moore want the court to issue a temporary order blocking the law before the university’s fall semester begins on August 24th. They also want the court to issue permanent orders to prevent state laws or regulations from requiring universities to allow concealed carry in their classrooms. They do not want a law punishing them for trying to ban guns in the classroom.
A group called Students for Concealed Carry refused to comment but called the arguments raised by the lawsuit “absurd”. Antonia Okafor, the Southwest regional director of the group, has said she feels that the lawsuit’s assertion that the Texas policy is “dangerously experimental” is “laughable”, since concealed carry has been permitted elsewhere in Texas for over 2 decades. Okafor feels that campus carry has been sown to post very little risk to public safety.
Overall, there is a lot of disagreement about concealed carry on UT-Austin’s campus. This conflict is just one example of the controversy surrounding gun laws in this country.