Students for Concealed Carry, Gun Free UT may file litigation in response to University decision on campus carry

Caleb Wong

Both Students for Concealed Carry and Gun Free UT have suggested they might file litigation in response to UT President Gregory Fenves’ decision regarding campus carry.

“SCC is confident that the University’s gun-free-offices policy and empty-chamber policy will not stand up to legal scrutiny; therefore, our Texas chapter will now shift its focus to litigation,” the Texas chapter of Students for Concealed Carry said in a statement on its Facebook page last week.

Gun Free UT also said it may consider filing litigation against the state of Texas. The organization declined to comment further on the specifics of its legal strategy, but said it was fighting to protect academic freedom in the classroom.

“There’s a lot of evidence that shows the presence of guns changes the way people behave, and I think everyone is concerned that the presence of guns will inhibit the discussion of controversial issues and possible dispute over grades or other matters,” said Max Snodderly, neuroscience professor and chair of the Gun Free UT legal committee. 

The possibility of litigation comes after Fenves said he would adopt all 25 recommendations of the UT campus carry working group last Wednesday, including allowing handguns in classrooms, the common areas of residence halls and study areas such as the library and dining halls. Guns would continue to be prohibited at ticketed sporting events, in laboratories with volatile chemicals, in patient-care areas and in areas where K-12 groups are present. Fenves also announced the creation of a committee to decide how campus carry rules would be implemented.

“It has been a very difficult decision balancing legal requirements with maintaining a productive educational environment,” Fenves said at the press conference following UT’s initial press release on campus carry.

Michael Newbern, Students for Concealed Carry spokesperson, said the group would closely monitor the implementation committee’s actions. Newbern said UT’s restrictions on guns in offices may unlawfully limit the rights of graduate students to carry weapons, and said firearm carrying rules could lead to negligent discharges of firearms on campus. He declined to comment on specific aspects of the litigation, including whom the group would consider suing. 

“The implementation committee still has the opportunity to get it right,” Newbern said. “We will be offering to work with them to help them get it right, but if they decide not to get it right, then someone is going to come along, and someone’s going to enlist the help of a judge so they can understand it.”

When asked if UT’s interpretation of the campus carry law would withstand legal scrutiny, J.B. Bird, UT’s director of media outreach, said several distinguished legal minds had reviewed the rules, including a former Texas Supreme Court Justice and Steven Goode, chair of the campus carry working group.

“Like the other public universities in Texas, we’re overseeing the complexities of implementing this new law,” Bird said.  

Xavier Rotnofsky, student body president and a member of the working group, said besides litigation, he thought it would be worthwhile to fight for public universities’ ability to opt-out of campus carry.

“Moving forward, one of the battles to fight is to once again try to get public universities the same privileges private universities have,” Rotnofsky, a Plan II senior, said.

This article has been updated since its initial publication to reflect that according to Michael Newbern, UT’s restrictions on guns in offices, not laboratories, may unlawfully limit the rights of graduate students to carry weapons.