AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — Three University of Texas at Austin professors sued Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday, saying a state law that will force them to allow concealed guns in their classrooms endangers them and violates their constitutional rights.
In addition to Paxton, professors Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter sued UT President Gregory Fenves and members of the UT Board of Regents in Federal Court.
They say their First, Second and Fourteenth Amendment rights will be violated if they are forced to allow concealed handguns in their classrooms to comply with Senate Bill 11, which was signed into law in June 2015.
The "campus carry" law allows license holders to carry a concealed handgun on university campuses. It takes effect Aug. 1.
The 18-page lawsuit begins: "In a cruel irony, the Texas Legislature has mandated that fifty years to the day after one of the worst gun-related massacres ever on a college campus — when Charles Whitman gunned down forty-three people on or about the campus of the University of Texas in Austin — UT-Austin must begin allowing the concealed carrying of handguns on campus and in classrooms. Worried about much more than cruel irony, the three plaintiff professors seek to at least retain the option of maintaining their academic classrooms as gun-free zones when classes start again on August 24, 2016."
The irony became crueler the day after the lawsuit was filed, when snipers killed five police officers and wounded seven in downtown Dallas, as a peaceful protest against white-on-black police killings ended.
The Texas Department of Public Safety had issued nearly 1 million concealed carry permits by the end of 2015. There are 3,500 licensed private handgun instructors in the state. But the "Texas Legislature regularly fails to provide DPS sufficient resources to regulate gun possession and training in Texas," the professors say in the complaint.
"Handgun regulation in Texas and nationwide is notoriously weak and inefficient, with gaping loopholes and outright voids. The consequence is that, in Texas, the carrying of handguns is not 'well-regulated' within the meaning of the Second Amendment because there has not been the imposition of proper discipline and training," the complaint states.
The professors cite the April 16, 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, in which a student killed 32 people and wounded 17 others. "Most of the shooting and killing was in a college classroom," the professors say.
S.B. 11 does allow an exception: but only at private universities, not public ones.
"Most significantly, private or independent institutions of higher education are authorized to bar concealed carry on their campuses. Numerous private colleges in the state, including Baylor University and Trinity University, have invoked the private college exception and barred concealed carry on their campuses," the professors say.
Public and private universities are allowed to establish "reasonable" rules and regulations on concealed weapons, but may not "generally prohibit" the carrying of concealed guns.
State law does not directly address specific regulation of concealed handguns in individual classrooms, but Paxton has said that campus presidents may not delegate to individual professors the authority to make such decisions.
President Fenves forwarded the campus carry policies he adopted to the chancellor of the UT System on Feb. 17, to take effect on Aug. 1.