U-Texas Approves Guns-on-Campus Rules

     AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — The University of Texas Board of Regents gave final approval to rules for carrying concealed handguns on campus, to take effect Aug. 1.
     Regents approved the rules at a Wednesday board meeting. They will implement Senate Bill 11, which was approved in June 2015. It allows license-holders to carry concealed handguns throughout university campuses.
     Public and private universities may establish “reasonable” rules and regulations regarding concealed carry, but may not include provisions that “generally prohibit” carrying concealed guns on campus.
     An exception for private colleges allows them to ban concealed handguns on campus, which numerous private colleges in the state have already done.
     The rules approved by the regents differ in a few ways from the rules recommended by UT President Gregory Fenves in February. For instance, they rejected Fenves’ rule that prohibited license-holders from storing rounds of ammunition in the chambers of their semiautomatic weapons.
     The regents will allow faculty and staff members who are solely assigned to an office to prohibit the concealed handguns in their offices. They must give oral notice of it.
     With some exceptions, carrying concealed guns is prohibited in all campus residence halls except for University Apartments. License-holders in University Apartments must store their handguns in a locked, privately owned or leased motor vehicle, or in a gun safe in the residence.
     Other barred areas include places where formal hearings are being conducted; places where a pre-K-12 school-sponsored activity is conducted; at sporting events or interscholastic events; patient-care areas; animal-research facilities; areas such as laboratories, where the discharge of a firearm might cause great harm; a polling place during voting; any government court or offices used by the court; and the UT Tower observation deck.
     The university’s updated Handbook of Operating Procedures says that that gun-exclusion zones “may sometimes comprise only a portion of a building. In some instances, it may not be feasible to exclude concealed handguns only from the designated exclusion zones.”
     Open carrying of handguns will remain prohibited on campus.
     Last week, three UT professors sued the university and Attorney General Ken Paxton over the campus carry rules. Professors Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter said their civil rights will be violated if they are forced to allow concealed handguns in their classrooms.
     The professors are concerned about their safety and the safety of their students. They say allowing students to carry concealed guns in their classrooms “chills their First Amendment rights to academic freedom.”
     The professors’ attorney, Renea Hicks, told Courthouse News the rules approved by regents on Wednesday “made things worse” by allowing license-holders to have a chambered round in their handguns. Hicks says he expects to file for a preliminary injunction before fall classes start on Aug. 24, to allow the professors to keep guns out of their classrooms.

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