Three professors at the University of Texas at Austin have filed a lawsuit over the campus carry law that recently went into effect in the state, claiming that allowing guns to enter the classrooms "chills their First Amendment rights."
The professors, Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter, would like a federal judge to block the law in the state, which is set to begin allowing anyone with a state-approved handgun license to carry a concealed weapon while on college campuses on August 1. Such weapons were previously only allowed in public areas like sidewalks and quads. The law will allow schools to create certain other areas where the guns will continue to be banned.
In their efforts to do so, they have decided to sue Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, UT Austin President Gregory Fenves and the UT regents. The professors noted that the law is set to take effect on the 50th anniversary of the day Charles Whitman stood at the top of the school's tower and fired a gun into the crowd below, killing 14 people.
"Compelling professors at a public university to allow, without any limitation or restriction, students to carry concealed guns in their classrooms chills their First Amendment rights to academic freedom," the professors argue in the lawsuit filed in U.S. district court in Austin on Wednesday.
The argument added that the campus carry law is in violation of their 2nd and 14th amendment rights, writes Benjamin Wermund for The Chron.
The three professors say if guns are allowed in their classrooms, they will need to change what they teach. Their courses currently discuss topics such as abortion, LGBT culture, imperialism and power structures related to sexuality and gender.
"As part of the learning process, they sometimes have to engage in difficult discussions of controversial, emotionally-laden topics," according to the suit. "It is inevitable that they will have to pull back, consciously or subconsciously, at important junctures in classroom exposition and discussion."
The flagship university in Austin is not the only institution which does not approve of the new law, as public universities across the state, including the University of Houston, are largely up in arms over it. Since the law passed last year, faculty members have continued to fight to keep guns out of their classrooms. UT Austin is the only school in the state to request that its professors be allowed to ban guns in their offices so far, although system regents have yet to approve that request, writes Lauren McGaughy for The Dallas Morning News.
However, others feel the fears related by the professors to be unfounded. Jacob Smith, who teaches a course at UH while earning his doctorate in economics, said he supported the new law because he wanted to be able to defend himself. He added that he routinely gets alerts from the school concerning armed robberies and break-ins.
Paxton spoke out against the lawsuit earlier in the week, promising to "vigorously defend" the campus carry law and adding that the right to keep and bear arms is a guarantee for all Americans, including college students.