Three University of Texas Professors have filed a federal lawsuit in an effort to block a state law that would allow those 21 years of age and older with concealed handgun licenses to bring their weapons into classrooms on campus. The law is set to take effect on Aug. 1.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Austin on Wednesday, requests a federal judge block license holders from bringing their guns to one of the nation’s largest campuses, Reuters reports. The Texas law allows university presidents to enact their own rules regarding concealed handguns as long as those rules don’t generally prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons on campus, and a 19-member task force at the University of Texas in Austin voted to recommend that concealed handguns be allowed in classrooms in December. The task force recommended concealed handguns be kept out of dormitories, however. Advocates of the law argue that it could protect students in the event of a mass shooting on campus.
In the suit, which named the state’s attorney general, the university president and the university’s board of regents as defendants, the professors argue that allowing students to carry concealed guns in classrooms “chills their First Amendment rights to academic freedom” by making it difficult for professors to discuss controversial or emotional subjects without fearing gun violence.
The law has already incited protest on the campus, with students staging a fake mass shooting in December, and an economics professor quitting over the “risk that a disgruntled student might bring a gun into the classroom.”
University officials are reviewing the lawsuit. The university president, Greg Fenves, approved properly licensed and concealed handguns in classrooms once the law takes effect earlier this year, though he has said he does “not believe handguns belong on a university campus.”