Defying the law, Steven Weinberg plans to ban guns in his Texas classroom

A new Texas law that goes into effect on August 1 will allow all students to carry concealed weapons on public university campuses and inside classroom buildings (some exceptions can be made by university administrations). It’s a dreadful idea, predicated on the notion that if the students are packing heat, it will deter terrorists or other crazies who want to attack campuses. (I can imagine the carnage in a classroom shootout like that!) Private universities are exempt—for the time being.

Given that it’s a law, there’s not much one can do but challenge it in court. But one professor, and someone I know and respect, is simply committing civil disobedience, telling students he won’t allow guns in the classroom.

According to PuffHo, renowned and Nobel-winning physicist Steven Weinberg (also an atheist) has announced that he’ll try to ban guns in his University of Texas at Austin classroom this fall:

Steven Weinberg, who won the top prize in science in 1979, said at the university’s faculty council meeting that he understands the decision could leave him vulnerable to a lawsuit. Most university task forces across the state have found that Texas’ new campus carry law prohibits such a ban. But Weinberg said he believes that he would eventually win that suit, because forcing professors to allow guns quashes constitutionally protected free speech and academic freedom.

“I am willing by my own actions to expose myself to this,” he said. “Let’s have it heard. We should allow the courts to decide it.”

Yes, I think he’ll be sued, and I’m glad he’s willing to take the heat (so to speak) and fight this thing up through the courts (I’m sure the American Civil Liberties Union will help, although I can’t really see this as a free-speech issue.) But Weinberg’s in for a hard time, for even the University’s lawyers disagree with him:

UT-Austin officials charged with reviewing the law were unconvinced. Steven Goode, a UT-Austin law professor and chairman of the university’s campus carry task force, said his group reviewed banning guns in classrooms and decided that it violated the new law. Attorney General Ken Paxton has agreed in a written opinion issued last month.

“I think that the notion that a First Amendment claim would win in court against [the campus carry law] is an illusion,” Goode said. “I think it is an extraordinarily weak argument.

. . . At UT-Austin, President Greg Fenves appointed a task force to review the law and suggest rules. That task force has recommended banning guns in dorms and allowing professors to ban guns in their individual offices. But it said that bans in classrooms went too far.

Fenves, who hasn’t yet weighed in, said on Monday that he expects to propose his rules by mid-February. But in comments to the faculty council, he indicated that he would have to stick with state law. When asked whether professors can require students with handguns to sit in the back of the classroom, for example, Fenves said he didn’t think so.

“As a public university, I am obligated to seeing that we carry out the law,” Fenves said.

I have a lot of friends who teach at UT Austin and other public universities in Texas, and I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes. I simply can’t imagine teaching knowing that students are sitting in front of me with pistols. What if they get mad?

At any rate, Weinberg has guts, and although he’ll probably lose, I applaud his chutzpah.

steven-weinberg-4

My hero!

 

107 Comments

  1. Kevin
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    My hero! Let’s see y’all go against the best man in your state!

    • Posted January 28, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. Incomparably intelligent and so down to earth (it seems to me, based on interviews).

  2. nickswearsky
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I would recommend to Prof. Weinberg that he put in writing on his syllabus “possession of a firearm in class will result in a failing grade.”

    Guns nuts are probably keen to challenge his rule — hoping he will try to exclude them from his classroom. But will they risk an “F”? What will the courts do about that?

    • masterwildfire
      Posted January 30, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      A better idea would be for the student(s) to sue the Dr. for his willful Civil Rights violations.

      After all, safety isn’t really the issue.
      Proof: How would disarming the intended victims, of a violent attack, make them safer when attacked with deadly intent?

  3. Frank Bath
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps Steven Weinberg should sit at his desk behind a mounted machine gun. Good luck to the man.

    • masterwildfire
      Posted January 30, 2016 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      A better idea, would be for Dr. Weinberg to seek professional treatment for his acute paranoia.

      • Posted January 30, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Okay, you’re out of here. I can tolerate your own paranoid gun-nuttery, but when you suggest that Weinberg’s stand comes from mental illness, that’s just insulting and rude. Go spew your ideas on some other website (maybe the NRA’s?)

  4. GBJames
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    sub

  5. Frank Bath
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps Steven Weinberg should sit at his desk behind a mounted machine gun. Good luck to his stand.

  6. allison
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Maybe this stupid law will be changed after the first accidental classroom shooting, which hopefully won’t be a fatal one.

    • Geoff Toscano
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      It’s very depressing to say, but I don’t think it’s a case of ‘if’ there’s a classroom incident, but rather ‘when’. One just has to hope that when it does happen the damage will be ‘…I’m really not sure what to say here’, and that the authorities realise what a stupid idea it was (though history suggests they’ll just say bring in more guns).

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        That’s how I feel. It’s not even my country, and I find it depressing. I think, like you, it’s “when,” not “if,” and all we can do is hope there’s no lasting physical damage.

        I wonder if guns are allowed in the snowflakes’ safe spaces?

        • Thud
          Posted January 28, 2016 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

          Yes! First mention I’ve seen of guns and snowflakes in a sentence!

      • Posted January 29, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        A first principle of secure software development is that if a feature exists users will use it. This generalizes to other forms of technology.

  7. eric
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    He’ll lose for sure, just because its Texas. Not so sure that objectively it’s a lost cause, though. The courts recognize that there can be reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on fundamental rights. So what he’d have to do is come up with a reasonable and defensible time, place, or manner restriction.

    This would seem to be trivial to do for at least the lab classes. No guns for the same reason no open-toed shoes or shorts; it is dangerous to expose skin (and guns!) to corrosive fumes, open flames, and/or reactive chemicals.

    So, maybe I should suggest to Mr. Weinberg that he start delivering his lectures in a chemistry lab.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

      I believe when Weinberg was hired he was payed more than the president and the FOOTBALL coach.

      He is respected there, at least, he used to be. The courts may not care, but the university will be put into thinking mode to try and mitigate a non-trivial outcome.

      • barn owl
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

        According to the Texas Tribune government salaries explorer website, Weinberg receives $573,969 in salary. That’s much much more than I make, but there are many UT system employees who make much more than Weinberg, including the head coach at UT Austin, and a number of cardiothoracic, plastic, orthopedic, and neurosurgeons throughout the various medical schools. You can look for yourself at the website:

        http://salaries.texastribune.org/

        I guess it’s nice that some faculty are in a financial position to risk their jobs and salaries to make a principled stance against campus carry laws. I’m not in that position myself, and it would be a futile stance in my case anyway, since professors don’t get to determine or control the individual grades for students in most professional school courses, especially those in the medical school. So I can’t make a policy that students bringing guns into the lecture hall during one of my classes are going to fail, and it would be utterly ridiculous for me to state that I was going to do so.

        • Kevin
          Posted January 28, 2016 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

          When he was hired, not now, obviously.

          • barn owl
            Posted January 29, 2016 at 5:27 am | Permalink

            Call me cynical, but I find it difficult to believe that a physics professor was paid more than the head football coach at UT Austin at any point since about 1940.

  8. TJR
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Are moslem students allowed to carry guns? Or is it only allowed for white christian students?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Now there’s an interesting question. I’d advise the first few Muslims to try it to invest in good body armour. Including a helmet.

    • ploubere
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Yes, and black students?

    • Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. If there’s one thing right-wingers are bad at it’s “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”.

  9. Guy
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I hate to draw the uncomfortable analysis between Prof. Weinberg, an eminent physicist advocating reason and a Kim Davis, a homophobe advocating biblical morality, but- breaking the law due to personal opinions, whether reasonable or bigoted, is breaking the law.

    The course of action that should have been taken by Davis is the one that Prof. Weinbrg should take- If your employer cannot excuse you from the legally sanctioned activity in question- resign.
    Civil disobedience in the face of injustice has a long and prominent history, especially in human rights. But this is not the case here. If the University of Texas, Austin can’t work out a solution until this problem is sorted out officially, I personally think that Weinberg should seek out another academic institution. I’m sure that this will cause just as much media attention. and I’m also relatively certain there are still academic institutions who are keen to hire Nobel winning, world famous physicists.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Unlike Davis, Weinberg is supported by the Physics Department and probably a lot of the faculty. I was in the physics department and taught classes and attended Weinberg’s classes. Unfortunately, most of the students who go to Weinberg’s class will agree with him, so I am not sure how this will pan out at a classroom level.

      A better comparison to Davis would be a liberal professor whose students all pack heat and hate their professor because he is doing the right thing.

      • Guy
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        I’m certainly not saying the disputed issue is comparable.
        From a LEGAL standpoint, Prof. Weinberg is talking about doing the same thing Kim Davis did- disobey the law for personal reasons, as a government employee (it is a state university, after all).
        If a government employee feels he is unable to perform his job in accordance with the law due to his personal beliefs, then he should resign. Those personal beliefs may based on humanistic values or iron-age homophobic values- it doesn’t change the responsibility.

        • nickswearsky
          Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

          One of the issues with Davis was that she could not be fired from her position. Weinberg, even with tenure, can be fired.

      • Scott Draper
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        “Weinberg is supported by the Physics Department and probably a lot of the faculty.”

        Not really relevant. Would Kim Davis have been in the right if all of her coworkers agreed with her?

        • Kevin
          Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

          As a comparison it might be:

          Davis’ office support was minimal to non-existence (at least that is what I read in Friendly Atheist).

          Weinberg’s faculty support borders on majority (my hypothesis).

    • Scott Draper
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      “but- breaking the law due to personal opinions, whether reasonable or bigoted, is breaking the law.”

      You have a good point. We tend to excuse people we agree with.

      • Chemist
        Posted January 29, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        There is a fundamental difference between the action of Prof. Weinberg & Kim Davis. While each may be advocating breaking a law, Prof. Weinberg is challenging a newly introduced law versus Kim Davis who challenged a law which had its jurisprudence examined & decided by the US Supreme Court.

        I think challenging this open carry law on free speech ground is a worthy effort, given the education setting (it will likely fail in Texas, but hopefully makes its way to US Supreme Court.) In a place where free exchange of ideas can evoke strong emotions it isn’t a stretch to believe open carry could lead to stifling free speech (think of a discussion of the “God” particle in the presence of an angry creationist.) If you think this an extreme perspective, think about how campuses are wrapped in a debate about intellectual “safe spaces” for students perturbed by uncomfortable ideas or issues.

        However this plays out, one has to give props to Prof. Weinberg for taking this issue on. Rational thought has to be brought to bear on the debate about guns (open carry laws would seem to be an irrational response to concerns about gun violence, except perhaps in the US.)

    • Posted January 28, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Though there are some formal elements of the two cases that are obviously similar, this is a case where one has to look past the formal elements to the content of the two cases, to the content. What Kim Davis did was wrong, this one is right. I don’t, nor does, from everything I read of JC (Jerry, not Jeebus), subscribe to a relativism about right and wrong here. (Come to think of it, nor does the other JC.)

      • Posted January 28, 2016 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I think you and Jerry Tarone below have got it right.

    • Jerry Tarone
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      A person has a right to safe working conditions. I suggest the differences are greater than the similarities. The teacher is concerned about his safety, Kim was forcing her morality (religion) on others.

      The state government has changed his working conditions so that (in his opinion) he may not be safe, especially considering the most frequent cause of firearm homicides are arguments where the person had easy access to a firearm. You can’t get much more easy access than carrying one in a holster. These homicides are far more frequent than the spree shootings the change in law is supposedly to prevent. (See a comment by me further down for a link to a link to FBI stats)

      There is a reason why the US has a homicide rate 3 to 6 times higher than many other countries. Easy access to firearms.

      The teacher may be more likely to be in the right if, when a student shows up carrying a firearm, he simply leaves and informs his manager that he felt there was an unsafe situation.

      In fact, requesting students with firearms to leave could place him in more danger, possibly sparking an argument that could lead to a deadly confrontation. I think he would be wise to discuss this with his health and safety officer or manager and treat it as it is, a safety issue and not confront students with firearms.

    • eric
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      For the umpteenth time, Davis went to jail for contempt of court because she did not follow a procedural rule while the case was being decided. She did not go to jail because the court found her choice not to issue licenses to gays illegal. That question is still technically being decided, or may have been mooted by the State’s decision to remove clerk names from the licenses (I don’t know; I haven’t been following it recently). And she probably won’t go to jail even if the court rules she broke the law, because of the civil servant immunity thing.

      So, if Prof. Weinberg takes his model case to court and then obeys the court’s decisions as the case is being decided, he will not be like Kim Davis. He will be acting more analogously to civil rights’ leaders of the past who conducted illegal sit-ins and then dutifully and lawfully went through the court process, arguing that the law they broke was unjust. OTOH, if the court issues a preliminary injunction to him stating he must allow students to go armed in his classes while the court case is being decided, and he violates that court order and doesn’t allow the court system to work as its supposed to, then yes, that would be like Kim Davis.

      • Scott Draper
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        “Davis went to jail for contempt of court because she did not follow a procedural rule while the case was being decided.”

        Irrelevant. Everyone was angry at her for taking it upon herself to determine what the law should be.

        I think this is an example of tribalism in action. If they do it, it’s bad, if we do it, it’s OK.

        • eric
          Posted January 28, 2016 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

          Read the last part of my comment, there is no tribalism there. I just said that if Weinberg violates a preliminary court injunction he will be like Kim Davis, because that’s what she did. If he takes his case to court but doesn’t violate a court ordered action, he won’t be like Kim Davis. What about that opinion is (a) incorrect, or (b) tribally biased?

          Secondly, I believe Kim Davis claimed she couldn’t or shouldn’t be fired for her actions. AFAIK, Prof Weinberg is saying exactly the opposite – that he can be fired for disobeying the law, and he’s willing to have that happen if that’s the way the administration wants to go. Which, again, is a pretty strong point of dissimilarity between himself and Davis. Had Davis said “I’m not going to do it, and I accept that this may mean I may be fired for cause” then frankly, I’d have had a lot more respect for her.

          • Scott Draper
            Posted January 28, 2016 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

            He can only take his case to court via an attempt to circumvent the obvious intent of the law. Pretty much everyone agrees that his argument is rather silly.

  10. Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    If a student does bring a gun to his class, what can he do? He cannot fail the student as suggested, or demand the student leave. The student has a legal right, silly as it is. He could refuse to teach, but then what?

    • Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      Correction. I guess he could demand the student leave, but what if she does not comply? The university police can’t help him because the student is within her rights.

      • nickswearsky
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        Put it on the syllabus and fail the student. Let them appeal their grade.

        • Posted January 28, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

          The student will win the appeal, and in the meantime Weinberg wastes his precious time on paperwork.

      • eric
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

        I suppose if she doesn’t comply he can say “class dismissed” and leave the room, signaling to the students and administration that he’s not going to teach as long as there are armed people in his classroom.

        This is all hypothetical of course. We will just have to see what armed students do, what he does in response, and what the administration then does. But given that he has publicly expressed the desire to bring this law into court, it appears he’s ready and willing to face disciplinary action and do things like “waste his precious time on paperwork.”

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      He doesn’t need to “refuse to teach”. He simply asserts to the entire class (and any managers from “upstairs” who happen to be present ; they will be) that “the presence of this person here with a weapon makes me feel unsafe. As a health and safety issue, I am going to have to stop presenting this lecture and remove myself to a place of safety.”
      You will notice that the issue is now one of a personal perception of unsafety, not a claim of an absolute unsafety. There is almost nothing that university management can do – without tearing their own health and safety policy into tiny shreds. There is no evidence to present – it’s his personal perception. There is no remedy available – short of removing the cause of the perceived unsafety.
      Or you can fire the professor. See above discussion of shredding the University’s entire health and safety policy (which they should be legally bound to have and to follow).
      That should be enough of a shit pot of legal tussles to throw the whole law from frying pan into fire. As long as there are people who find the presence of guns makes them feel unsafe. Which would be any significant workplace other than a gun shop.
      Doesn’t the Texas legislature have people whose job it is to look for conflicts between existing law and new law?

      • Posted January 28, 2016 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that should work. Become the victim.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 28, 2016 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

          What is “becoming the victim” about insisting on your right to a safe workspace?
          OK – I may take that more literally than most people. Fire, explosion and poison gas are threats I have to assess and plan against on a day-to-day basis, not to mention the ever-lasting standbys of death by dropped object (Big Mike the Deck Foreman came very close to being crushed by a 50-tonne lifting frame in late July ; he’ll probably never work again, given the torn muscles. According to reports.)
          I have a right to as safe a working place as reasonably possible ; my minions similarly have the same right (even as they bitch and moan about my insisting that they adhere to manual handling and chemical safety rules that make the job take longer) ; I can’t comment on the continuing investigation into Mike’s incident, but his right to a safe working place remains unaffected by anything the investigation turns up.

  11. Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Came across this solution yesterday, which seems a lot more sane & practical for shooter rampage situations.

    Of course, there has to be a wrinkle… always is. This time it’s the fire codes.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

      I’m not so sure that the fire codes would make these devices inherently un-deployable. They’re not something that would be permanently deployed, and in the event of the location performing lock-down drills you’d simply perform a partial deployment (the under-door version being deployed loose on the inside of the door frame, for example).
      I’m pretty sure that could be got around. Hell, we manage regular evacuations drills, blowout drills etc. [Shrug].
      Of course, the first prepared killer who meets one of these will take the appropriate steps to up his body count. Do I need to spell them out?
      Fire doors need to be fairly sturdy (20 minutes with 500 or 800 degC on one side, IIRC from UK codes ; the fine details vary). Other interior doors … in the famous “here’s Johnny!” scene from The Shining the axe could have been replaced with almost any piece of furniture. E.g. a fire extinguisher. Then the body count is in the hands of Colonel Molotov and his portable drinks bar.
      So the next bright idea will have a surge of sales.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        Of course, the first prepared killer who meets one of these will

        I refer the reader to the mention a few moments ago of a fanatically unprepared assailant at Disneyworld. The big risk is in assuming that all assailants will be as delusional as the last one. Mohammed Atta was not as delusional as Timothy McVeigh.

        • GBJames
          Posted January 28, 2016 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

          “Mohammed Atta was not as delusional as Timothy McVeigh”

          How do we know that?

          • gravelinspector-Aidan
            Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

            Success rate.
            Both set out to kill many people and bring about fundamental change in the society they attacked. One killed more people and succeeded in starting the sociology experiment.

            • GBJames
              Posted January 28, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

              And this maps to differential delusionality how?

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted January 28, 2016 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

                Generally people who are more connected to the real world have more effect on it. It’s a weak metric, but it’s a metric.

              • GBJames
                Posted January 29, 2016 at 7:05 am | Permalink

                I think your measure of relative delusionality is flawed. A low body count means more delusional? No, a low body count means less effective in manufacturing higher numbers of dead people. A completely insane guy setting off a nuke in NYC would, by that measure, be more “grounded” than a cool-headed hit man working for the mafia.

  12. FloM
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Universities used to be hotbeds of civil disobedience against non-sensical action of the state. If everyone stands together and goes on strike, faculty and students alike, that would send a message!

  13. merilee
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    sub

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    The “concealed” bit of the law is an extra twist of the knife. Texas certainly isn’t mandating gun safety training for students who carry guns.

    If I were a prof, I would consider the option of insisting that all students in my class with guns disclose them at the very least.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

      … rather than making them sit at the back, INIST as a matter of safety that they sit in the doorways and face OUTWARDS from the classroom. Since they’ve appointed themselves as protectors from external assault. Oh, you’d better deploy any additional gunmen behind the guardian gunman, with gun cocked against the guardian’s head, just in case the guardian takes a sudden fit of insanity. Later rinse and repeat until you’ve run out of gunmen. Then you can get on with your presentation.
      The gunmen obviously think that their provision of your “safety” is more important than their education.
      It’s a strategy.
      Looking ridiculous is a huge concern for some young people.

      • Posted January 28, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        The gun-toting students aren’t interested in providing anyone with safety. They are interested in pretending their guns are their dicks.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 28, 2016 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

          “BCSD”, as discussed in another recent thread.

    • barn owl
      Posted January 29, 2016 at 5:40 am | Permalink

      It’s been made very clear to us that professors can’t ask students to disclose firearms in class. You can’t even ask for disclosure if a student visits your office or research lab (although research labs with expensive equipment have been declared as gun-free zones, because of the risk of damage from accidental firearm discharge). These spaces don’t “belong” to any particular faculty, so individuals can’t make rules to which students and staff must adhere, or be forced to leave. Of course faculty can take a personal stance, declare a fear for safety, and refuse to teach, which likely means loss of job, regardless of tenure.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted January 29, 2016 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        (although research labs with expensive equipment have been declared as gun-free zones, because of the risk of damage from accidental firearm discharge)

        How do they evaluate someone’s life against the worth of “expensive equipment”? What about the risk to life from accidental firearm discharge? Does no-one think these things through?

        • barn owl
          Posted January 29, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

          They send around surveys and hold town hall meetings, and I have voiced my opinions on the matter, fwiw. I pointed out that if accidental discharge of a firearm is a possibility that might damage valuable research equipment, then it could just as easily injure or kill a student, faculty, or staff. Logic doesn’t work, apparently. 😛

      • Filippo
        Posted January 29, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        Are the chancellor’ and university system president’s executive suites off-limits to firearms?

        ” . . . although research labs with expensive equipment have been declared as gun-free zones, because of the risk of damage from accidental firearm discharge.”

        That notably illuminates priorities.

  15. david
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    “It’s a dreadful idea, predicated on the notion that if the students are packing heat, it will deter terrorists or other crazies who want to attack campuses. (I can imagine the carnage in a classroom shootout like that!) Private universities are exempt—for the time being.”

    Look at all the shootings that have happened: law enforcement is 15-30 minutes away, sometimes hours away if there is a hostage situation and SWAT is trying to get in. While the shooter has full control of the situation, what are you gonna do stab him with a pencil? Run? Use pepper spray? Use a taser? Yea good luck with that. Lets say you got 10 students and 3 are carrying, instead of 11 victims, the only dead person will most likely be the assailant.

    “I have a lot of friends who teach at UT Austin and other public universities in Texas, and I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes. I simply can’t imagine teaching knowing that students are sitting in front of me with pistols. What if they get mad?”

    Yea because all gun owners are crazy and racist and if they get mad they start shooting. Come on, you can’t possibly believe that.

    • Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Ummm. . . I expect you to apologize for mischaracterizing my thoughts in the last sentence. When did I say that all gun owners are crazy or racist? You’re new here, aren’t you?

      Well, you’re free to make your gun-loving points, but you’ll apologize before I’ll let you post here again.

      • david
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        I’m sorry to imply that, but saying that “What if they get mad” as if someone with a gun will automatically escalate the situation is just illogical. As if they get mad they will start shooting, or point a gun at you and say gimme an A+ on the test or I will shoot. Someone like that will just attack with a gun, knife or his hands, and if I was that afraid of my students I better have something to defend myself.

        “A minus? A MINUS? noone gives Ogden Wernstrom an A minus! BLAT BLAT BLAT!”

    • Jerry Tarone
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      Do you expect reasonable people to believe that some firearm owners have not lost their temper and used their firearm to shoot someone?

      It happens every single day in the USA.

      This is one of the reasons why the vast majority of countries don’t allow everyone to walk around with loaded firearms.

      Last week, the FBI released “Crime in the U.S., 2014,” a report that includes (among other stats) all incidents of gun violence known to law enforcement (except in Florida and Alabama, states that chose not to share that particular information). On “Expanded Homicide Data Table 11, Murder Circumstances by Weapon Type” (downloadable here), we see that the most common known circumstance for gun homicide is “arguments.”

      http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/10/oregon-shooting-gun-laws-213222?o=1

      • ploubere
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

        sub

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      Yea because all gun owners are crazy and racist and if they get mad they start shooting. Come on, you can’t possibly believe that.

      Why not? It seems a very reasonable proposition to start from for me. I’ve still never seen a live weapon that wasn’t either holstered on a foreign policeman, or pointed at me, loaded and cocked, with a racist, a robbing policemen or a drunken idiot on the business end.

      • Negasta
        Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

        You seem to afflicted with the condition known as confirmation bias.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 28, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

          I’ve had a drunken farmer wave a shotgun in my face and force me (and my hunt saboteur colleagues) into the path of charging horsemen. I’ve had an Ulster policemen arrest me at gunpoint (perfectly nice guy to me, but the institution was at the time profoundly institutionally racist). I’ve been mugged at gunpoint twice in one night in Gabon by policemen (that was in Libreville, where the police don’t get paid ; in Port Gentil, they are paid and are perfectly reasonable guys).
          Other than that, the only real guns I have ever seen have been either at arms-rest (whatever the position is called with the machine gun horizontal across the chest), or in the holster of a foreign policeman (or police woman).
          I do have a friend who used to be a gun nut – well, he was on the university rifle team. But I never accompanied him to the shooting range to see his weapon (why would I want to?) and he never got beyond the planning stage of installing a gun-cabinet at his home. I believe he stopped the hobby a decade or more ago.
          So, regardless of your perception of confirmation bias, those are the facts. I’ve never seen a gun closer than a policeman’s holster (abroad, or in London), which was not loaded, cocked and aimed at me.
          That said, I have, on several occasions in the last year or two, considered learning how to handle a lethal weapon. I’d rather learn properly than have to learn in a hurry with the pirates breathing down my neck. Of course, guessing what weapons they’ll be carrying is going to be … well a guess. Obviously, we wouldn’t have our own weapons. We’re just going there for a job of work, not as an army. Even when we hire the army, they’re not armed with anything more than body armour, flash-bangs, and anything they can liberate from the machine shop (which is plenty).

    • jeremyp
      Posted January 29, 2016 at 4:34 am | Permalink

      Yea because all gun owners are crazy and racist and if they get mad they start shooting.

      It only needs one gun owner to be crazy and to get upset over a grade or something.

  16. Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I’m in Texas and I can tell you that this open cary BS is 100% NOT about preventing crimes or stopping terrorism.

    It is in itself a form of terrorism, that it what it is INTENDED to be. The dudes with guns with guns are saying “Look at us. You can guess what our political alignments are. And we’re just waiting for the day we can shoot you.” It’s a goddamn insurrection. And the forces behind this actually WANT to intimidate university instructors.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      Though most unfortunate, my guess is that of all the excellent comments on this thread, yours will prove the most accurate and the most perceptive in the long run.

      I do think that it would be instructive, as pointed out above, for blacks or muslims to bring guns on to the campus and see what the reaction is.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted January 29, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        The worry in your suggestion (and I appreciate the point you’re making) is that the armed WASPs already on campus might decide that the law should not apply to blacks and Muslims “for obvious reasons”, and take the law into their own hands. Cue carnage.

  17. J.Baldwin
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know…I’ve taught in small colleges in Idaho (now in s. Georgia) and at an R1 in the South and I guess I’ve always assumed some students were carrying. Hell, I know those aren’t all books in those backpacks.

    Maybe the thought of students carrying never bothered me because, as a former police officer, I know that carrying a gun is a pain in the ass and in reality very few will do it. Among those who begin carrying because of this law, many will soon tire of it and stop. I vividly recall my own experience as a young officer. I always carried off duty. Then, after a few months, I realized nobody knew how cool I was because they didn’t know I had a gun in my belt. The bother of carrying wasn’t worth it. I haven’t owned a gun since I left law enforcement in 1988.

    My own sense is that these laws won’t significantly increase the number of guns already on campuses. The issue will just be a polarizing distraction.

    • Kevin
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      I agree, a hidden gun, legal or not is simply a hidden gun.

      What most of these gun carriers fail to see is that they are likely to die martyrs, rather than heroes.

      If I wanted to shoot up all of my classmates. I’d sit in the back, near the door and start shooting, looking for anyone who has a gun. If no one looks like they are reaching into their pants of backpack I continue to shoot. If I am met with gun carrying John Wayne, I have plenty in the first magazine to put him down. How is this to his advantage.

      The best strategy is, without being a prisoner to paranoia, is to sit near the door, always make some observations who might be a crazy, and run for the hills if shooting starts.

      Escape, hide, attack. In that order. Best probabilities to live. Shootings are random and unpredictable. Guns only detain you from succeeding with the first two options. If you do escape and can find cover, then a gun is potentially useful and hope the police don’t think your part of the bad guys.

  18. Gasper
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    I can’t imagine a student, interested enough in science to attend Professor Weinberg’s class, carrying a gun. Despite the Texas gun mentality, I have never run into it while visiting.

    • Tom
      Posted January 29, 2016 at 12:17 am | Permalink

      Excellent point. The law does not say that students must carry guns.

      • Filippo
        Posted January 29, 2016 at 4:05 am | Permalink

        I wonder if it will also be okay for them to get their guns out during class and fondle them.

  19. Jerry Tarone
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    I suppose Texas has very weak occupational health and safety laws. But it could be one way to attack the problem. According to the FBI’s crime stats arguments are the top reason for shootings. One could say that having a firearm in the workplace places the employee at greater risk, perhaps even an undue risk to harm, requiring either guns be banned or suitable safety gear or mechanisms be installed, such as bullet proof glass or the university must supply bullet proof vests.

    Perhaps federal OSHA could get involved? Get them fighting the state over the safety of firearms in the classroom.

    Another strategy is for anyone on campus who is shot, or their next of kin, to sue the government for allowing firearms.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      Aha – the same strategy as occurred to me.

  20. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    I don’t even know where to start on this. Maybe with the simple statistics showing a correlation between gun density and death frequency. (Well, duh!)

    Foreign support could be to promise to never visit Texas until they fixed their security problems (allowing guns in public buildings).

  21. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Why can’t a professor ask that people who enter his classroom adhere to certain rules? It only seems fair since it’s his/her classroom and nothing that violates human rights is being asked.

    • xerru
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

      Gun nuts think the right to carry lethal weapons anywhere they please is a human right…

  22. grad student
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    What if their best professors all left (brain drain)?

    Imagine if Weinberg, Hillis et al. all collectively resigned. They could certainly find academic jobs elsewhere.

    It would most likely hurt UT’s rankings over time, and eventually their bottom line (money, money).

    I wish this would happen.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      That’s a subsidiary strategy to the H&S strategy I described above. If the university decides to accept this policy, then they’d have to smash up their own H&S rule books. Which is going to make it harder getting, for example, funding for federal programmes – “your H&S policy isn’t up to standard”. A veritable can of worms.

  23. Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    There was a news story the other year, where there was a shooting, but one of the armed guys nearby decided that it was not a good idea for him to try to stop the shooter. He explained on the news why, with reasons that included “When the police show up, how are they going to know I’m not the shooter?”. To argue that students are going to take down an attacker is ridiculous.

  24. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Inside and outside Texas, you have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But to have good students menaced and shot in their classrooms by evil thugs with guns, that takes an act of the Texas legislature.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      I see what you did there. +1!

  25. Vaal
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Re: arming students with guns:

    ” It’s a dreadful idea, predicated on the notion that if the students are packing heat, it will deter terrorists or other crazies who want to attack campuses.”

    Have the people who think that forgotten that the terrorists expect, even want, to be
    killed during their act? How does arming people who will fulfill that expectation deter such terrorists?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 28, 2016 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

      Or arming students with the emotional maturity of a pea. We’ve witnessed student maturity too often in outrageous outbursts recently.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted January 29, 2016 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        What would have happened if Melissa Click and her “muscle” had been carrying? It’s easier to enforce your position by producing a gun. The next step is, movie style, to cock it in an exaggerated fashion, and now you’re only a small pressure increase of your index finger away from murder.

    • masterwildfire
      Posted January 30, 2016 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      You ask: “Have the people who think that forgotten that the terrorists expect, even want, to be killed during their act? How does arming people who will fulfill that expectation deter such terrorists?”

      Those who take personal responsibility for their own protection differ in their belief from you, in that they look at STOPPING the terrorist killing spree, while you are working from the position of disappointing terrorist.

      If on April 16, 2007, when the “Gun Free” Virginia Tech goblin attacked and murdered his 1st victim (VT1), had VT2 been armed, and stopped the goblin, that act would have saved 31 lives including the life of VT2 them-self, whether the goblin died or not.

      Had the Principle at “Gun Free” Sandy Hook been armed, the slaughter could have been stopped, just as the Pearl High School murderer was stopped by the armed Vice-Principle, that could have easily saved 26 lives.

      The goal is not to disappoint terrorist and murderers, the goal is to STOP them.

      Where has being unarmed, when attacked with deadly intent, ever made things better for the intended victims?

  26. colnago80
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    In the first place, Prof. Weinberg is 82 years old and I suspect he is sufficiently well fixed that he doesn’t need the income from being on the faculty.

    In the second place, if he likes being affiliated with a university, there are any number of universities, many of which are at least as prestigious as UT, that would be more then happy to have him on their faculty.

    My advice to him is vote with your feet.

  27. Filippo
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Would Weinberg be allowed to display in the lecture hall photos of saucy wenches with bare breasts, and dildos of various sizes, textures and colors? Or would that kill someone?

  28. Simon
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    “I simply can’t imagine teaching knowing that students are sitting in front of me with pistols. What if they get mad?”

    Actually, this’s nothing really new. Have you ever been to an inner city high school?

    I have some kids from Kansas City schools as patients, & they reliably regard class as the safest time of the day, when someone would have to be crazy to pull a weapon, & the ones too hotheaded to restrain themselves are usually truant or dropouts anyway. Even in schools that’re regarded as even more dangerous than the local prisons, anyone who carries a gun does so for the sake of the neighborhoods they go through on the way.

    On a related note, I know a (long) retired high school teacher who used to teach her students about force & momentum by asking which of them were carrying, or failing that had a rifle in the truck, & having a few shoot into a lump of wet clay, measure the hole & calculate the approximate force. “The best lessons are the ones they remember.” or something like that. Sure, it’s not quite accurate because she didn’t bother explaining the finer points like resistance from the size or shape of a bullet, but the idea sticks & is immediately understandable, & back then it wasn’t frowned upon by the administration.

    Though that was Montana in the 70s, you understand.

  29. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 28, 2016 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    sub

  30. Mike
    Posted January 29, 2016 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Your Countries Legislators ,are getting more and more deranged by the Day.

    • Filippo
      Posted January 29, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      It’s that Amuricuhn Exceptionalism.

  31. Posted January 29, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    We need information on the constitutionality of the Texas law. IANAL, but it seems unconstitutional to me.

    Our current Supreme Court, which ruled twice recently that individuals DO have a constitutional right to own and carry guns for personal protection, ALSO said very clearly – in these very cases – that those rights are subject to reasonable restrictions.

    And if reasonable restrictions are constitutional, then the Texas law, it would seem to me, is in direct conflict, since it rules out reasonable restrictions on Texas campuses.

  32. Posted January 29, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Good for Weinberg to make a stand (so to speak) but I fear this will not end well regardless …

  33. masterwildfire
    Posted January 30, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    “I will put it into my syllabus that the class is not open to students carrying guns, I may wind up in court; I’m willing to accept that responsibility.”

    Well, Dr. Steven Weinberg, there are a few important points you may wish to consider.
    1) Research the definition of the word “concealed” as in: Concealed Carry.
    2) Will you be strip searching all students as they enter your classroom, or will the use of a metal detectors, like they used at “Gun Free” Red Lake High School on March 21, 2005, satisfy you?
    3) Will the University or that little 4th Amendment thingy, allow you to indulge your paranoia?
    3) Members of the Virginia Tech’s faculty publicly stated similar pride in their “Gun Free” policy just weeks before April 16, 2007.
    4) Maybe the biggest issue here Dr., is your own paranoia; has Utah Colleges and Universities experienced what you fear? Has any other college or University where students are allowed to carry guns on campus experience anything like you fear?
    5) I assume you’re tenured, so even if no students takes your class, the University will still be forced to pay you. (Win/Win right?)
    6) Do you seriously believe that someone willing to commit murder, will care about your silly syllabus?
    7) Where has your belief in the ideology of “The more helpless you are when attacked with
    deadly intent, the SAFER you are!” actually saved lives?
    “Gun Free” Virginia Tech? – 32 slaughtered, 17 wounded
    “Gun Free” University of Arizona College of Nursing? – 3 slaughtered, 5 wounded
    “Gun Free” University of Alabama (Huntsville)? – 2 slaughtered, 3 wounded
    “Gun Free” Northern Illinois University? – 5 slaughtered, 17 wounded
    “Gun Free” Umpqua Community College? 9 slaughtered, 9 wounded

    8) You’ve stated you’re willingness to “accept responsibility” in court. Well what about your being jailed for Civil/Human Rights violations, by the consequences of your actions?

    Just food for reasoned thought.

  34. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 30, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Ah, the usual rabid gun nut mantra. Trawling through the Internet for cases where gun-toting loonies went berserk to justify arming even more gun nuts.

    I don’t see much ‘reasoned thought’ in evidence there. This could be the first time anyone in this forum has ever called Steve Weinberg’s syllabus ‘silly’.

    cr

  35. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 30, 2016 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Damn! That was of course a reply to ‘masterwildfire’

    (‘masterwildfire’? Given my own chosen ‘nym I probably shouldn’t over-analyse that but still…)

    cr


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