Right to Carry Concealed Handguns Expands at Texas Universities

As of August 1, a new state law has expanded the right to carry concealed handguns in buildings on public university campuses in Texas, including within dormitories and classrooms. Private universities in Texas are still allowed to prohibit campus-carry, and reportedly all but one of them have done so. For two-year community and junior colleges, campus-carry expansion is scheduled to take effect on August 1 of 2017.

Texas AFT opposed the expansion of campus-carry in the 2015 legislative session as a measure that would make college campuses less safe. The 2015 legislation as finally passed gave each college and university considerable authority to restrict campus-carry, but legal disputes continue over the exact bounds of that authority.

At the University of Texas in Austin, for example, faculty members have filed a federal lawsuit attacking campus-carry in the classroom as a threat to freedom of speech for them and their students, but Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has denounced the lawsuit as frivolous. Earlier Paxton also issued an advisory opinion asserting that any wholesale ban on campus-carry in classrooms would violate the 2015 law.

The University of Texas campus-carry policy does give faculty members the right to prohibit carrying concealed handguns in their individual offices. Some gun-rights groups have made noises about challenging even that limited restriction on access.

Still unsettled are questions about campus-carry restrictions when K-12 students are on college campuses for dual-credit or early-college instruction or similar purposes. These questions will be of extreme concern to community colleges, where such programs are commonplace. The starting point under state law is that handguns are not permitted at any location where pre-K/12 activities are held on a college campus. By extension, it would seem justifiable to bar handguns from the classrooms and other facilities where dual-credit and early-college students mingle with older persons who may be licensed to carry concealed handguns. State Rep. Abel Herrero, the Corpus Christi Democrat who chairs the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, has posed exactly that issue in a request for an advisory opinion to the attorney general.