Three University of Texas at Austin professors seeking to overturn the state’s 2015 campus carry law have had their lawsuit dismissed by a federal judge.
The law allows licensed-to-carry individuals to carry concealed handguns inside most public university buildings. Campus carry became law in 2015 and went into effect on Aug. 1, 2016.
The professors bringing the lawsuit were Drs. Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore, and Mia Carter.
In his decision, District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote that the faculty members didn’t present any “concrete evidence to substantiate their fears” that campus carry would have a chilling effect on free speech, said Emily Taylor, an Independent Program Attorney for Texas Law Shield and a partner in the Houston-based law firm of Walker & Taylor.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose office defended the state in the case, praised the decision. “The court’s ruling is the correct outcome. The fact that a small group of professors dislike a law and speculate about a ‘chilling effect’ is hardly a valid basis to set the law aside,” Paxton said.
In the lawsuit, Taylor said the faculty members sought “to at least retain the option of maintaining their academic classrooms as gun-free zones.” The suit also complained about UT-Austin’s President Gregory L. Fenves, whose “insufficiently protective policies,” along with the “overly-solicitous, dangerously-experimental gun policies of the Texas Legislature” supposedly put them at risk.
Taylor added, “The professors claimed that the law violated their First Amendment rights. They said that because a gun might be in their classrooms, it might make them hesitant to discuss controversial issues.”
In dismissing the suit, Yeakel wrote, the professors didn’t have standing to sue:
“Plaintiffs in this case do not challenge a direct regulation or restriction on speech. Plaintiffs allege that ‘classroom discussion will be narrowed, truncated, cut back, cut off’ by the allowance of guns in the classroom. One professor avers in an affidavit that the ‘possibility of the presence of concealed weapons in a classroom impedes my and other professors’ ability to create a daring, intellectually active, mutually supportive, and engaged community of thinkers.’ Plaintiffs do not specify a subject matter or point of view they feel they must eschew as a result of the Campus Carry Law and Campus Carry Policy, or point to a specific harm they have suffered or will suffer as a result of the law and policy. Rather, the chilling effect appears to arise from Plaintiffs’ subjective belief that a person may be more likely to cause harm to a professor or student as a result of the law and policy.”
Taylor said the teachers have 28 days from July 6 to ask Judge Yeakel for clarification and 30 days to file an appeal to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
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