As I’ve mentioned before, on August 1 a Texas law went into effect that allows students at four-year colleges to carry concealed handguns nearly everywhere on campus. (In exactly a year the same law will apply to two-year colleges.)
My post described the law like this:
The students need permits for their concealed carry, and the campus is allowed to designate a limited number of “sensitive areas” where guns aren’t allowed, though those areas must be approved by the institution’s board of regents. You’re also not allowed to store weapons in automobiles.
I can only imagine what more enlightened countries, like Canada, France, or England, think of such a law.
As far as I understand it, the law applies to all colleges, not just public ones, and replaces a previous law that allowed guns only in public areas of universities (quads, sidewalks, and the like). Private universities, however, can opt out of this law, and schools like Rice and Baylor have done just that. There’s no opting-out for state-funded schools.
Three professors at the University of Texas at Austin, Jennifer Lynn Glass, a professor of sociology, Lisa Moore, a professor of English, and Mia Carter, an associate professor of English, sued to block the law on the grounds that it forces their university “to impose ‘overly-solicitous, dangerously-experimental gun policies’ that violate the First and Second Amendments, as well as the Fourteenth (see today’s Hili dialogue). You can see the full copy of their lawsuit here.
I posted even earlier that the physicist and Nobel Laureate Steve Weinberg, also at the University of Texas at Austin, said that he would not allow guns in his classroom, and would take the consequences for violating the law. I haven’t heard about Weinberg since then, and he wasn’t party to the lawsuit.
Now, according to the Dallas News, both the state and the University of Texas have warned that professors defying this law, as Weinberg said he’d do, will face punishment:
“Faculty members are aware that state law provides that guns can be carried on campus, and that the president has not made a rule excluding them from classrooms,” attorneys representing the University of Texas at Austin and Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in a legal brief filed Monday. “As a result, any individual professor who attempts to establish such prohibition is subject to discipline.”
This threat was clearly intended as a warning to the three brave women standing up against this insane law, but they’re persisting in their suit:
The state’s lawyers, in their Monday filing, asked Judge Lee Yeakel to throw out the professors’ lawsuit. The educators fired back in their own brief, calling again for Yeakel to halt the law for one semester so they can hold a public trial on whether campus carry violates their constitutional rights to free speech and equal protection.
The professors’ lawyers say the law and UT’s own campus carry rules are too vague for his clients to know if and how they might be punished if they tried to keep gun owners out of their classrooms.
“No person of common intelligence — and one would think that the tenured plaintiffs rise at least to that level — can figure out what governs them on this issue under Texas law and UT policies,” the professors’ attorneys wrote.
They go on to say there is nothing in state law or UT policy that explicitly forbids professors to ban guns in classrooms, so, then, the question is “whether there is any policy at all that would bar plaintiffs from doing what they want to do or that would punish them in some way if they did so.”
I suppose the President of UT Austin, Gregory Fenves, didn’t have much choice here, but it would have been nice to hear him say something like this: “We have to follow the law on this campus, but I think it’s a bad law and I accept it unwillingly.” But not only did he not say that, but also failed to exercise his power to turn any classrooms into gun-free zones.
In the state’s brief, attorneys from Paxton’s agency say the law is clear. It gives campus presidents the ability to designate each school’s limited “gun-free zones,” they say, and if classrooms are not expressly included in campus policy as off-limits to firearms, then guns must be allowed there.
“The president is the sole individual authorized to establish gun exclusion zones on UT Austin’s campus. He has not designated classrooms as gun exclusion zones,” they wrote.
A judge will decide the lawsuit next week, but, as I predicted earlier, I doubt the three women will prevail. It’s Texas, Jake!
And I’m glad I don’t have to teach at the University of Texas! Imagine an angry student confronting you about his grade. “Does he have a gun?” would be your first thought.