Anti-gun efforts on Texas campus appear to have stalled
Professors who previously sued their university claiming campus concealed carry would have a chilling effect on free speech there will not comment on the effect that guns have had on campus life since the policy was instated.
Lisa Moore, Jennifer Glass and Mia Carter, three University of Texas at Austin professors, filed a lawsuit against the university in 2016 seeking to overturn the state’s campus carry law that permitted individuals to carry concealed weapons into public university buildings. The professors claimed the possibility of a gun being in their classrooms would violate their First Amendment rights, including that of academic freedom.
A district court eventually tossed out the lawsuit, with the judge asserting that the plaintiffs “[did] not specify a subject matter or point of view they feel they must eschew as a result of the Campus Carry Law and Campus Carry Policy, or point to a specific harm they have suffered or will suffer as a result of the law and policy.”
Though the professors predicted disastrous results from the campus concealed carry law, they were unwilling to speak about its effects on their campus.
Mia Carter did not respond to multiple requests for comment via email. Reached via email, Lisa Moore said: “I’m not able to help, I’m sorry,” without giving further explanation.
Asked about her experiences on the school’s campus over the past year, Jennifer Glass told The Fix that she had not done any undergraduate teaching this past year and was thus not able to comment. Glass did not answer followup questions regarding the campus climate and whether or not guns had had any effect on it over the past few years, inside or outside the classroom.
School says very few students actually carry
Reached via email, campus spokesman J.B. Bird directed The College Fix to an explanatory website for the school’s campus carry policy. That website notes that the new policy is actually something of a subtle change from a longtime campus rule regarding guns.
“License holders have been allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus (but not in buildings)” since 1995, the site states.
“There is no way to determine how many students have concealed handgun licenses. However, based on the demographic data we have, we estimate that currently fewer than 1 percent of UT students are licensed to carry a concealed handgun,” the school states elsewhere.
Asked about pro-carry campus activism at the school, Bird said he was unaware of any specific advocacy groups.
“I am confident there are organizations whose members support Campus Carry, but I would leave those declarations to the students themselves. I am not aware right now of a registered student organization dedicated specifically to either side of this issue,” he said.
“A group of professors formed an organization opposed to the law, called Gun Free UT, and they are still active,” Bird noted.
That group, Gun Free UT, has hosted multiple events to spread awareness about gun violence and to advocate disarming students on campus. The organization, whose motto is “Armed With Reason,” states its goals are to “adopt the most restrictive implementation of [the campus carry policy] possible; no guns in classrooms, offices, or dormitories; work for the repeal of [the law]; and make UT-Austin a completely gun-free campus and a safe place for free inquiry.”
The group’s webpage suggests it has not been active for well over a year; the most recent press release on the site is from 2016, while the most recent event posted to the group’s page is from last March.
Past events include promoting a “March for Our Lives” rally, holding vigils every Monday to commemorate victims of gun violence and hosting a “Gun-Free UT Teach-In.”
Cristina Adams, a spokeswoman for the group, told The Fix she would “put [The Fix’s] request out to the GunFree UT executive committee and see who is available to email or speak with you.” In a followup email, Adams said that “nobody who can speak to this issue objectively, fairly and knowledgeably is available at the moment. Most people come back to town over the next two weeks to gear up for the start of school.”
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