UT professors file suit in federal court to block 'campus carry' law

The lawsuit filed yesterday to stop the new campus carry law at UT is being described as a judicial Hail Mary pass. That reaction is from a group called Students for Concealed Carry.

Austin attorney Renea Hicks is part of the legal team that filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday for 3 university professors.  It’s claimed the new campus carry policy for UT will have a “chilling” effect on free speech in the classroom.

"The basis of this lawsuit is that these 3 professors have a constitutional right to say they can’t be forced to allow students to have guns in their classrooms,” said Hicks.

The lawsuit opens by describing the implementation of campus carry as a cruel irony. It’s noted the new gun rule takes effect on the anniversary of the UT Tower shooting; which happened 50 years ago. The professors want a federal judge to block the rule from taking effect August 1st.  But gun advocates with a group called - Students for Concealed Carry say - it’s laughable that the lawsuit suggests the policy is a dangerous experiment.

"It’s a non-issue, in every state where this is practiced it becomes a non-issue, very quickly people figure out it’s just not that big of a deal,” said Michael Newbern with Students for Concealed Carry.

The UT concealed carry policy  does  prohibit guns in certain areas on campus like; sporting events, labs, animal research centers, disciplinary hearing rooms, medical & mental health clinics, polling places, and activities involving minors. There's also limited restrictions at resident halls and university offices.

Hicks and his clients believe it’s not unreasonable to add classrooms to that list.

"They can tell these people when they come in you can’t have gum, you can’t chew gum in the classroom, they should be able to say you can’t have guns in the classroom,” said Hicks.

Hicks pointed out that private universities were able to opt-out of the law. But Newbern worries gun free zones put law abiding gun owners at risk of inadvertently getting in trouble.               

"So if these professors, they go shopping at a shopping mall, they eat out at restaurants, they are around licensees, why are they all of a sudden they are scared of licensees on college campuses I just can’t understand that,” said Newbern.

Thursday the campus was filled with incoming freshmen and their parents. The new longhorns who spoke to FOX7 said they were aware some upperclassmen may be packing more than books this fall.

"I think some people have the right to protect themselves, but it can be scary, because you never know the mental state of maybe some people here. So it definitely is scary,” said Amber Chambers.

July 13th the UT Board of Regents will review the campus carry policy. The board may let it take effect, as is. They could also modify the rules, which would require a two thirds vote.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton is calling a federal lawsuit filed by three University of Texas professors seeking to block the "campus carry" law an insult to gun owners.   In a statement Thursday, Paxton said the challenge was baseless. He said Texans holding licenses to carry concealed weapons don't suddenly become a "menace to society" by coming on campus.

 


 

Three University of Texas professors have filed suit in federal court, seeking to block the state's "campus carry" law before it takes effect next month.

Wednesday's lawsuit argues that the law allowing license holders to carry concealed handguns on campus potentially violates the First Amendment.

It argues that guns in classrooms could disrupt student discussion of potentially thorny topics.

The opening Preamble of the Complaint reads...

In a cruel irony, the Texas Legislature has mandated that fifty years to the day after on e of the worst gun-related massacres ever on a college campus - when Charles Whitman gunned down forty-three people on or about the campus of the University of Texas in Austin - UT-Austin must begin allowing the concealed carrying of handguns on campus and in classrooms.  Worried about much more than cruel irony, the three plaintiff professors seek to at least retain the option of maintaining their academic classrooms as gun-free zones when classes start again on August 24, 2016.

Read the full lawsuit.

Students for Concealed Carry responded to the lawsuit in a press release to FOX 7.

Antonia Okafor, Southwest regional director for SCC made the following statement.

The suit's suggestion that campus carry is “dangerously experimental” is, on its face, laughable. Licensed concealed carry has been allowed throughout most of Texas for more than twenty years, with no indication that it has led to an increase in violent crime or gun accidents. It's been allowed on more than 100 U.S. college campuses for an average of seven years, without a single report of a resulting assault, suicide attempt, or fatality of any kind. 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.

 

 

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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