Yesterday morning, a federal judge denied a request by three University of Texas-Austin professors who wanted to ban firearms in their classrooms despite a recently passed law authorizing concealed firearms on public college campuses.
The ruling came down just two days before classes are scheduled to start at UT campuses. US District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the lawsuit filed by professors Lisa Moore, Mia Carter, and Jennifer Lynn Glass is likely to fail and found that their request for a preliminary injunction was “an extraordinary remedy.”
“It appears to the court that neither the Texas Legislature nor the Board of Regents has overstepped its legitimate power to determine where a licensed individual may carry a concealed handgun in an academic setting,” the judge wrote.
The lawsuit, which claims the new campus-carry law forces state schools to impose “overly-solicitous, dangerously-experimental gun policies,” will continue to move through Yeakel’s court. The professors’ attorney told The Dallas Morning News that their legal team would “begin to pull together the evidence and facts for the trial and hope things go smoothly on campus in the meantime.” The plaintiffs are arguing that the law violates their First Amendment right to academic freedom because their classroom management could be influenced by fear of violent student retaliation.
The campus-carry law went into effect earlier this month on the anniversary of the 1966 clock tower massacre at the University of Texas-Austin. It makes it legal to carry concealed firearms at public universities, including in dorms and classrooms. The legislation allows private universities to opt out; all but one have done so. UT administrators have expressed wariness at the idea of guns on campus in the past. Last year, a UT-sponsored working group published a report that wrestled with ways to reconcile the law with campus safety. “Every member of the Working Group—including those who are gun owners and license holders—thinks it would be best if guns were not allowed in classrooms,” it concluded.
The Texas attorney general’s office has been largely unsympathetic to complaints about the new law. Earlier this month, Attorney General Ken Paxton filed a motion to dismiss the professors’ suit, warning the three plaintiffs that they could face disciplinary measures if they interfere with the campus-carry law. Paxton has also said a ban on firearms in dormitories would be a violation of the law.
“I am pleased, but not surprised, that the Court denied the request to block Texas’ campus carry law,” Paxton said in a statement. “There is simply no legal justification to deny licensed, law-abiding citizens on campus the same measure of personal protection they are entitled to elsewhere in Texas. The right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed for all Americans, including college students, and I will always stand ready to protect that right.”