Paxton Pulls Zero Punches in Campus Carry Court Filing

Paxton Pulls Zero Punches in Campus Carry Court Filing
Robert Nelson via Flickr creative commons

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton this week made good on his pledge to defend the state's new campus carry law, filing a brief against a legal challenge brought by a trio of University of Texas at Austin professors.

“It is a frivolous lawsuit and I’m confident it will be dismissed because the Legislature passed a constitutionally sound law,” Paxton said in a statement. “There is no legal justification to deny licensed, law-abiding citizens on campus the same measure of personal protection they are entitled to elsewhere in Texas.”

As we previously reported, the professors say they believe campus carry, which went into effect Monday, violates their First Amendment right to academic free speech and 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law. They argue instructors should be allowed to regulate who carries a gun in their classrooms.

They also insist campus carry violates the Second Amendment, because they interpret the "well-regulated militia" clause of the statute as requiring gun owners to be adequately trained, which they say they believe the Texas concealed carry licensing process fails to do. The professors are seeking a preliminary injunction to suspend campus carry until a judge can weigh its merits.

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In a 26-page filing in the federal court for the Western District of Texas, Paxton and his deputies attempt to discredit the professors' argument.

The attorney general's lawyers write that the campus carry law does not violate the rights of professors, arguing that if a judge could find any culprit for such a violation, it would be gun carriers themselves.

"Plaintiffs are complaining that the presence of concealed carry violates their right to academic freedom," the AG's filing states. "But the State is not responsible for an individual’s decision to conceal carry in a classroom or not. That choice belongs to the individual, a level of attenuation that cannot serve to put the State on the hook for a constitutional violation."

In other words, Paxton's argument could be summed up as "We don't make people carry guns to class, folks — we just assert they should be able to."

Paxton et al. also dismissed concerns raised by the professors that the sensitive subjects they teach may provoke violent or threatening reactions by gun-carrying students — citing the hypothetical examples of libertarian or conservative students who oppose women's rights or law enforcement.

"Plaintiffs think the adults in their class who have been licensed by the State to carry handguns state-wide are ticking time-bombs who are likely to commit acts of violence if they are allowed to carry a handgun in class where they are exposed to the Professors’ ideas," the AG lawyers state. "That is ridiculous."

A judge has yet to act on the professors' request for an injunction.

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