The attorney general (AG) of Texas is warning state universities not to stretch exceptions to the state's new campus carry law.
The measure, which takes effect in August, lifted a blanket ban on handguns on campuses. It wasn’t totally what some gun-rights supporters were hoping for, said the Wall Street Journal, as it exempts private schools entirely and lets public university leaders create gun-free zones.
Texas AG Ken Paxton emphasized in his memo that gun-free zones on campuses should be limited in scope, the Journal said. It’s OK, he wrote, to ban concealed handguns from classrooms that “pose heightened safety concerns,” giving the example of classrooms shared with grade-schoolers. But banning guns from a “substantial number of classrooms” could conflict with the law, the attorney general said, addressing his memo to the legislation’s main sponsor, Texas Sen. Brian Birdwell.
Schools also may not ban guns from dormitories, he wrote. [The law] allows an institution to establish reasonable requirements related to the location and manner in which handguns are stored within its residential facilities on campus. What is reasonable in any given circumstance will involve questions of fact. If an institution placed a prohibition on handguns in the institution’s residential facilities, however, it would effectively prohibit license holders in those facilities from carrying concealed handguns on campus, in violation of S.B. 11.
The Texas Tribune notes that a campus carry task force convened by the University of Texas at Austin recommended a policy of requiring that firearms at a residence be locked in a car or gun safe. The school’s report also mentioned that most of its students who live in on-campus university housing are younger than 21 and not eligible for a license to carry a concealed handgun.
In his memo, Paxton said the decision on whether to ban guns from a particular classroom rests with a university’s top administrator, usually a president. That official may not delegate the authority to individual professors. “[A]s a practical matter, if each faculty member could establish individualized rules, adequately publishing such rules and providing the notice required by S.B. 11 would be unmanageable,” he wrote. The attorney general also said if a school violates a person’s rights under the law, that individual could sue for injunctive relief.
UT-Austin is currently the only major university considering recommendations that include banning guns in dorms, though many universities are still awaiting their task forces’ reports, said the Texas Tribune.