With less than a month to go before guns are allowed in UT classrooms, three professors have filed a lawsuit against the university and the state. Sociology professor Jennifer Glass and English professors Mia Carter and Lisa Moore filed suit on Wednesday, alleging that the state’s campus carry law—set to go into effect on Aug. 1, the 50th anniversary of the Charles Whitman shooting—is unconstitutional.
The suit, which invokes the First, Second, and 14th Amendments, names Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, UT president Greg Fenves, and the members of the UT Board of Regents as defendants.
“In Texas, the carrying of handguns is not ‘well-regulated’ within the meaning of the Second Amendment because there has not been the imposition of proper discipline and training,” the suit says.
The professors also argue that compelling professors to allow guns in their classrooms has a chilling effect on the First Amendment right to academic freedom. “Robust academic debate in the classroom inevitably will be dampened to some degree by the fear that it could expose other students or themselves to gun violence by the professor’s awareness that one or more students has one or more handguns hidden but at the ready if the gun owner is moved to anger and impulsive action,” they write. The suit cites examples of controversial topics from Glass’, Carter’s, and Moore’s classes—such as abortion and sexuality—that the professors say they would be fearful to teach with the possibility of guns in their classrooms.
In a statement, Students for Concealed Carry regional director Antonia Okafor, a graduate student at UT-Dallas, called the lawsuit “without legal precedent or factual foundation” and a “Hail Marry [sic] pass.”
“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,” Okafor said.
UT has not yet commented on the suit. In a report released in December, UT Law professor Steve Goode, chair of the working group charged with drafting UT-Austin’s recommendations for how to implement the law, emphasized that members of the group felt their hands were tied.
“Every member of the working group thinks it would be better if we did not have concealed handguns in classrooms,” Goode wrote, “but S.B. 11 is the law, and we were asked to make recommendations that would comply with the law and ensure campus safety.”
UT-Austin faculty have been outspoken in their disagreement with the law, which also prompted the resignation of economics professor Daniel Hamermesh. Former architecture dean Fritz Steiner said the law contributed to his leaving UT for the University of Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit is the first legal challenge to S.B. 11, which since its passage last year has prompted such stunts as a planned dildo protest and a mock mass shooting. Campus carry laws have already been implemented in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin.
Read the full suit below:
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