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Texas Professors’ Campus Carry Suit Thrown Out

July 10, 2017
 
 

A federal judge threw out a lawsuit brought by professors at the University of Texas at Austin trying to fight the state law that allows for the widespread concealed carry of handguns on campuses and in university buildings.

Part of the professors’ suit was based on First Amendment grounds -- that allowing concealed handguns in classrooms would prevent professors from addressing sensitive topics, for fear of reprisal. District Judge Lee Yeakel wrote in his decision that the plaintiffs couldn’t prove their First Amendment claim.

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

In his decision to throw out the case, Yeakel focused on the First Amendment claim. However, the lawyer for the professors told The Texas Tribune that it’s unclear what the future holds for the other legal objections to the law, since they weren’t addressed.

"We had other claims in the lawsuit beyond that -- a Second Amendment claim, an equal protection claim. The order accompanying his dismissal doesn't seem to address those issues," Renea Hicks said. "So there's a bit of confusion on our part."

The professors have 28 days from July 6 to ask Yeakel for clarification and 30 days to file an appeal to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Tribune reported.

In a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton praised the decision.

“The court’s ruling today is the correct outcome,” he said. “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.”

Texas’s campus carry law went into affect Aug. 1, 2016. Though legislatures and courts have generally been favorable toward gun owners wishing to carry on public campuses, a recent decision in Michigan was notable in that it upheld a gun ban on the University of Michigan's campus.

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