Texas AG shoots down profs' arguments against campus carry
A lawsuit against Texas’ new campus carry law is “frivolous” and lacks “legal justification,” the state’s Attorney General contends in an opposition brief filed Monday.
Three University of Texas professors filed the lawsuit in response to the campus carry law that took effect August 1, arguing that guns in the classroom threaten both academic freedom and equal protection as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
“It is a frivolous lawsuit and I'm confident it will be dismissed.”
The suit requests an injunction to block the law, but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is one of the defendants named in the lawsuit, said he is “confident [the lawsuit] will be dismissed” in a press release Tuesday touting his counter-arguments.
“The Legislature passed a constitutionally-sound law,” Attorney General Paxton declares in the statement, adding, “There is no legal justification to deny licensed, law-abiding citizens on campus the same measure of personal protection they are entitled to elsewhere in Texas.”
Renea Hicks, a lawyer representing the professors, claims their fears are justified. She argues that guns in the classroom violate the First Amendment because the fear of inciting gun violence will suppress certain opinions.
“It isn’t a vague fear that something might happen,” Hicks said. “It’s the palpable certainty that there will be narrowed spectrum of academic debate because of guns in the classroom.”
Additionally, the suit alleges that campus carry unfairly applies different standards to public and private universities, thereby violating the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, by allowing private universities to opt-out of campus carry while denying that option to public universities, which must open most areas of their campuses to concealed firearms.
Paxton responded to these claims in his court brief Monday, arguing that “neither claim is likely to succeed,” and calling the argument that guns have a chilling effect on speech particularly “ridiculous.”
“Plaintiffs think the adults in their class who have been licensed by the State to carry handguns state-wide are ticking time-bombs who are likely to commit acts of violence if they are allowed to carry a handgun in class where they are exposed to the Professors’ ideas,” he states derisively. “That is ridiculous.”
This is not to mention, argues Paxton, that while public universities enjoy the right to academic freedom, the professors employed by them have no greater claim to First Amendment protections than does any other citizen.
Paxton then goes on to refute the contention that campus carry violates the Fourteenth Amendment, pointing out that “The classrooms where the professors are teaching are state property” and that “the State has the right to decide how it wants to administer its property.”
In a July statement to The Dallas Observer, UCLA law professor and constitutional expert Eugene Volokh agreed that the lawsuit will fail.
“I’m skeptical about the plaintiffs’ claims that concealed carry by lawful license holders will materially chill people’s freedom of discussion," Volokh said. "I don’t think it does in public places, and I don’t think it will in universities. But in any event that hypothetical risk isn’t enough to invalidate Texas’s decision about gun rights."
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