AUSTIN, TX – Students for Concealed Carry is grateful to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton for his commitment to preserving the integrity of the state’s new campus carry law; however, we feel that the media is focusing on the wrong aspect of the attorney general’s recently issued opinion on the matter.
In the wake of Attorney General Paxton’s official opinion, issued Dec. 21 in response to a request by Senator Brian Birdwell, author of the campus carry law, the media has fixated on the portion of the opinion that states, “If an institution placed a prohibition on handguns in the institution’s residential facilities…it would effectively prohibit license holders in those facilities from carrying concealed handguns on campus, in violation of S.B. 11.”
SCC agrees with that opinion; however, our research and calculations suggest that any policy regulating licensed concealed carry by dorm residents will affect no more than a half-dozen license holders on any given campus, including the state’s largest universities. Furthermore, the campus carry working group at the University of Texas at Austin has shown that campus carry policies can be drafted in such a way as to address the unique security concerns posed by dorms but not create an outright “prohibition on handguns in the institution’s residential facilities.”
The policy proposed by the UT-Austin working group would apply only to dorms, not on-campus apartments; would apply only to dorm rooms, not the common areas of residential halls; would apply primarily to dorm residents and staff, not visiting families; and would allow a licensed staff member living in a university dorm to keep a handgun in his or her dorm room as long as the gun is locked in a gun safe (there are many quick-access gun safes available). It is the opinion of SCC that all that is need to bring this policy into compliance with the law is to develop a safe-storage system for the tiny handful of licensed students who live in dorms (e.g., allowing them to store their guns at the university police headquarters, as many universities around the country already do).
With that said, we believe that Attorney General Paxton’s opinion does cast serious doubt on another policy proposed by the UT-Austin working group. Responding to Senator Birdwell’s question as to whether a university could allow individual professors to designate individual classrooms as gun-free zones, the attorney general writes, “No provisions within S.B. 11 authorize a president or chief executive officer to delegate this authority to individual professors, and reading S.B. 11 as a whole suggests that the Legislature did not intend to allow such piecemeal regulation of handguns on campus.” SCC believes that this opinion casts serious doubt on the working group’s proposal that “[the] occupant of an office to which the occupant has been solely assigned and that is not generally open to the public should be permitted, at the occupant’s discretion, to prohibit the concealed carry of a handgun in that office.”
SCC has repeatedly (EXAMPLE 1, EXAMPLE 2) argued that UT-Austin’s proposed gun-free-offices policy would violate both the letter and intent of Texas Senate Bill 11, and we feel that Attorney General Paxton’s opinion corroborates our position. We now hope to see Senator Birdwell or another state official request an attorney general opinion on whether the law permits a university to require that a semiautomatic handgun carried by a license holder on campus be carried with an unloaded chamber, as would be mandated by the policies proposed by the UT-Austin working group. We believe that this proposed empty-chamber policy, like the proposed gun-free-offices policy, would violate both the letter and intent of SB 11.
CORRECTION: This statement originally stated that the dorm policy proposed by the UT-Austin campus carry working group would allow dorm residents to keep guns in gun safes; however, the provision allowing guns to be kept in gun safes would apply only to dormitory staff and to residents of university apartments.