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Appeals Court Upholds Law Allowing Guns on TX Campuses

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on August 21, 2018 12:00 PM

In response to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, President Trump suggested that the teachers carry weapons in their classroom to protect the students. Perhaps that would be Trump's response to the three University of Texas, Austin, professors, whose Civil Rights suit lost in a three judge panel 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. There, plaintiffs cited their First, Second, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were being violated by allowing students to carry concealed weapons into their classrooms on campus ("Campus Carry" laws). The plaintiffs lost at both the federal and appellate level. They are deciding whether to take this to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Freedom of Speech, Just Watch What You Say

The UT professors claimed that students would not feel welcomed to speak their minds in class, and teachers would not feel welcomed approaching controversial topics and issues, in fear of being shot if a gun-carrying student disagreed with their position. They believe that a 2015 state law allowing licensed gun-owners to carry concealed weapons in to basically any room on a public university campus would have a "chilling effect" on a classroom's free speech.

But a federal district judge threw out their case in July 2017, saying the professors didn't present any "concrete evidence to substantiate their fears." The court claimed merely disagreeing with the law is not enough to give standing. Note, however, there have been other shootings on the UT campus, but those events didn't apply here.

College Campus Shootings in the U.S.

The UT professors may not have standing to sue, but they, and other college professors, certainly have standing to fear. There are currently 10 states that have Campus Carry laws. There have been numerous shootings on college campuses, and the number will continue to rise for the foreseeable future. The most infamous recent college campus shootings are:

  • In 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, before taking his own life.
  • In 2017, Hollis Daniels, a Texas Tech student, shot and killed a police officer on campus.
  • In 2016, Dalton Stidham shot and killed two people, and wounded another, at Hazard Community and Technical College.
  • In 2013, Trey Foster shot three people on the Lone Star College's North Campus, none fatally.
  • In 2013, Sean Johnson shot an administrator at Stevens Institute of Business & Art in St. Louis over financial aid issues.
  • In 2012, One L. Goh shot and killed three people, wounding three, at Oikos University.
  • In 2012, Thomas Caffall opened fire near the Texas A&M Stadium, killing three.

If you feel there are gun laws that violate your constitutional rights, as either a student or a teacher, contact a local Civil Rights attorney, who can listen to your case and provide you with the legal help you need.

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