Texas AG asked to rule on legality of campus carry restrictions

As several public colleges in Texas explore the possibility of restricting campus carry in classrooms, dorms, and offices, the law’s sponsor is asking the state’s Attorney General to rule on the legality of such limitations.

Republican State Sen. Brian Birdwell sought the interpretation of Attorney General Ken Paxton, WOAI reports, in a letter prompted by the University of Texas Faculty Council’s recent vote to recommend that the school implement such a ban when campus carry takes effect this summer.

[RELATED: 150 UT professors vow to defy campus carry law]

“The Act prohibits public colleges from adopting any rule, regulation, or other provision prohibiting license holders from carrying handguns onto the campus of the institution,” Birdwell reminds Paxton in the letter, adding, “[f]or purposes of the act, 'campus' is defined to include 'all land and buildings owned or leased by the college’.”

Some faculty, however, have expressed fears that the newfound freedom to carry concealed weapons—which they typically assume will look something like the movie Tombstone—could lead to the suppression of academic freedom, with students threatening violence in response to bad grades, or even just ideas with which they do not agree.

[RELATED: UT prof says campus carry will ‘shut down’ free speech]

At a campus carry forum held Wednesday night at Texas State University, for instance, The University Star reports that several faculty members raised concerns that classrooms would not be included among the “carve-out zones” that the school is looking to create, whereas the Board of Regents meeting room would be.

“I find that to be a very disappointing statement about what is valued and what is not valued,” associate history professor Margaret Menninger said.

“There are many of us on this campus that make similar decisions that upset people,” elaborated Department of Accounting chair Ann Watkins. “And guns aren’t appropriate.”

Other professors have even independently vowed to ban concealed weapons in their classrooms or offices should their schools fail to move forward with institutional restrictions.

Birdwell, however, warns Paxton that individual bans by professors would “create a hodgepodge of rules and prohibited areas, making it difficult for Licensees to know where they may and may not carry a handgun” thereby effectively overriding campus carry by forcing students to leave handguns in their cars or dormitories.

Another argument against campus carry restrictions, which Birdwell did not address but which was raised by a history professor at the Texas State forum, is the demonstrated inefficacy of gun-free zones in preventing firearm violence.

“We have an illusion that making gun-free zones is going to mean that there’s no guns allowed,” observed biology professor David Huffman. “It just means there are no legal guns allowed.”

Paxton has yet to respond to Birdwell’s letter, but his eventual interpretation of the campus carry law could have significant ramifications for proposed bans at public colleges across the state.

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