In just three weeks, on August 1—the 50th anniversary of Charles Whitman climbing the University of Texas tower and shooting 14 people to death— a Texas law goes into effect that allows anyone, including students, to carry concealed handguns on campus, including inside classrooms. Great idea, right? Well, it’s Texas, Jake! 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 institutions board of regents. You’re also not allowed to store weapons in automobiles.
At the end of January, I reported that Steven Weinberg, a physics professor (and, of course, a Nobel Laureate) at the University of Texas at Austin (UTA) said he would defy the ban, prohibiting students from bringing guns into his class. Given the law, he’ll probably lose, but it was gutsy. So when I heard this week that three UTA professors had sued the state to keep guns off its campus, I assumed Weinberg would be one of the plaintiffs.
He wasn’t, but no matter. The three professors are Jennifer Lynn Glass, a professor of sociology, Lisa Moore, a professor of English, and Mia Carter, an associate professor of English. The grounds for their lawsuit? According to the Washington Post, it’s that the Texas pro-gun law forces UT “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 the lawsuit here.
“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.
Sadly, this looks like a loser given current law. The professors are free to express their opinions, and if their willingness to do so is chilled by the possible presence of guns, well, so is anybody else’s in a concealed carry state, or even an open carry state. The Supreme Court has rejected the “militia” interpretation of the Second Amendment to favor the “right” of all citizens to have guns—an opinion that I think is deeply misguided but remains the law of the land. They’re invoking the Fourteenth Amendment because the professor claim they’re not afforded “equal protection of the law” given that there are many places where concealed handguns are not permitted in Texas.
The defendants include Attorney General Ken Paxton, the UT Austin President, Greg Fenves, and the entire nine-member board of the UT System Board of Regents. The attorney general responded on Twi**er:
An “insult”! Paxton is an ass.
I’m not sure how this dumb law is supposed to make the campuses safer—presumably because all those gun-carrying students could fight back if a Charles Whitman figure ever invades the campus again. As for me, I’m glad that the University of Chicago prohibits all weapons. Who knows what a petulant creationist could do?