In response to a letter asking for clarification on state gun laws sent by State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an advisory opinion on Monday stating that Texas public colleges and universities are prohibited from banning the possession of guns in dorms by Concealed Handgun License holders.
Sen. Birdwell’s letter, dated Nov. 18, read, “It has been reported in the public media that some public Colleges are considering prohibiting the possession of handguns in some or all dormitories and/or other College-owned or leased residential housing. This would appear to violate the express language of [recently enacted campus carry law Senate Bill 11] that limits regulatory authority to those pertaining to ‘storage’ of handgun in such locations.”
Courthouse News Service notes that Sen. Birdwell asked Attorney General Paxton to clarify what authority Texas public colleges have to regulate the carry of firearms in individual classrooms and dormitories, whether individual professors can ban guns from their classrooms, and what remedies an individual whose rights have been violated by a college can pursue.
“If a public institution of higher education placed a prohibition on handguns in the institution’s campus residential facilities, it would effectively prohibit license holders in those facilities from carrying concealed handguns on campus, in violation of the express terms of Senate Bill 11,” wrote Paxton in his advisory opinion.
He added, “A court would likely conclude that a public institution of higher education exceeds the authority granted under Senate Bill 11 if it prohibits the carrying of concealed handguns in a substantial number of classrooms or delegates to individual professors the decision as to whether possession of a concealed handgun is allowed in the individual professor’s classroom.”
Paxton’s opinion argued that people whose gun rights have been violated at an institution of higher learning are not allowed to sue for damages due to sovereign immunity, but that they can sue to force the university to comply with Senate Bill 11.
Paxton said that only a president or chief executive officer of a college or university has been given authority under Senate Bill 11 to ban guns from a particular classroom. He also said that 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.“