Three University of Texas at Austin professors sued the school and the state on Wednesday, claiming a new campus carry law is forcing the school to impose “overly-solicitous, dangerously-experimental gun policies” that violate the First and Second Amendments.
Professors Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter are asking a federal judge to grant an injunction that would block the law, which allows concealed-handgun license holders to carry their weapons inside most public university buildings and classrooms, before it goes into effect Aug. 1.
The professors teach courses that touch emotional issues such as gay rights and abortion. The possibility of guns on campus could stifle class discussion, which is a violation of the First Amendment, the lawsuit argues.
“Compelling professors at a public university to allow, without any limitation or restriction, students to carry concealed guns in their classrooms chills their First Amendment rights to academic freedom,” the lawsuit says.
The complaint also cites the Second Amendment, which is usually used by gun-rights supporters to bolster ideas such as campus carry.
“The Second Amendment is not a one-way street,” it says. “It starts with the proposition that a ‘well-regulated militia,’ (emphasis added), is necessary to the security of a free state. The Supreme Court has explained that ‘well-regulated’ means ‘imposition of proper discipline and training.'”
The complaint adds: “If the state is to force them to admit guns into their classrooms, then the officials responsible for the compulsory policy must establish that there is a substantial reason for the policy and that their regulation of the concealed carrying of handguns on college campuses is ‘well-regulated.’ Current facts indicate that they cannot do so.”
The professors also claim that the law violates the 14th Amendment, which promises equal protection under the law.
The lawsuit is likely to be a long shot. Numerous states across the country have passed similar campus carry laws that haven’t been overturned by the courts.
A UT-Austin spokesman said the university has received a copy of the lawsuit and is reviewing it but has no immediate comment.
The university’s campus carry policies haven’t been finalized. In the coming days, the University of Texas System Board of Regents is expected to consider changes to the rules proposed by UT-Austin President Greg Fenves.
Fenves is named in the lawsuit. As the complaint notes, he has publicly stated that he does not think “that handguns belong on a university campus.”
A spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is also named in the suit, declined to comment, saying Paxton’s office hasn’t yet been served.
The group Students for Concealed Carry declined to comment on what it called the “absurd” constitutional arguments raised in the lawsuit.
But Antonia Okafor, southwest regional director for the group, said in a statement that the claim that the law is dangerously experimental is “on its face, laughable.” Campus carry has been allowed on more than 100 college campuses across the country, she said.
“To put it in terms these professors should understand, the clinical trials are over, and campus carry has been shown to pose little risk to public safety,” she said.
Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of the Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.