The Texas Attorney General has issued an opinion stating that recent amendments to Texas law prohibit a junior or community college from categorically prohibiting concealed handguns on campus.
The questions posed to the Office of the Texas Attorney General (OAG) sought to answer whether there were exceptions to Texas’ new campus carry law in circumstances where minors may be present in classrooms, programs on campus, children’s activities, or in childcare centers.
The AG states, “Your questions presuppose a different standard due to the presence of minors. Nothing in S.B. 11 expressly excepts from the concealed carry authorization areas of a campus of an institution of higher education in which minors may congregate.”
As reported by Breitbart Texas, Second Amendment activists worked during the 84th Texas Legislative Session to pass campus and open carry bills. On May 31, 2015, we also reported that the Texas Legislature passed SB 11, the “Campus Carry Bill.”
Senate Bill 11 allows licensed to carry holders to have their concealed weapons in their dorms, public buildings and classrooms of public, private, or an independent institution of higher education in Texas. However, a private or independent institution may prohibit license holders from carrying on campus, or on any grounds or buildings on which a university-sponsored activity is being conducted, or in certain university-owned vehicles. Public, private, or independent institutions of higher education may establish regulatory provisions concerning the storage of handguns in dormitories or other residential facilities. Junior and community colleges have one more year to determine their gun rules. The law became effective this year on August 1.
The president or other chief executive officer of a public institution of higher education, after appropriate consultation, is required to establish reasonable regulatory provisions. A license holder may not generally be banned from carrying a concealed handgun on the campus of a public institution of higher education or have that same effect. A student who is 21-years-old or in the military may apply for a concealed handgun license but they must pass both a gun range and classroom course. Students may not open carry on public universities.
In May, Texas State Representative Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) requested an opinion (attached below) from the Office of the Texas Attorney General. He asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to answer the following questions:
Question 1: Can a junior/community college prohibit handguns in the classrooms on the college campus, if minor children may attend classes in any or all of the classrooms on that campus?
Question 2: May handguns be prohibited during special programs where minors will be present and in all areas where minors are expected to appear?
Question 3: For programs that take place over several weeks and are directed at minors (e.g. College for Kids), may handguns be prohibited in all areas where minors may congregate?
Question 4: May handguns be prohibited on campuses which offer childcare centers?
The AG noted in the opinion that “Subsection 46.03(a) also prohibits a person from carrying firearms and other specified weapons on ‘any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by a school or educational institution is being conducted.’ This language is limited, not by location, but rather by activity,” he explains. The activity is one sponsored by a school or educational institution but not one sponsored by a junior or community college.
Within the Penal Code, the Legislature “clearly reiterated its intent to allow concealed handguns on college campuses,” he writes.
In summary, the AG opined:
Thus, generally speaking, a junior or community college may not categorically prohibit concealed handguns from the junior or community college campus. But as authorized by Government Code subsection 411.2031 ( d-1 ), the president or other chief executive officer of the junior or community college may establish rules, regulations, and other provisions that accommodate the unique nature of a particular campus provided that such rules, regulations, or provisions do not “generally prohibit or have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns on the campus of the institution.’
Accordingly the AG concluded, “Applying these principles to [the] specific questions, a junior or community college may not adopt a blanket prohibition against concealed handguns:
- in all of its classrooms merely because minors may attend or be present in any or all classrooms.
- at all special programs simply because minors may be in attendance.”
However, citing Texas Government Code section 411.2031(d-1), a junior or community college can establish “reasonable rules” that consider the “nature of the student population, specific safety considerations, and the uniqueness of the campus environment.” The AG concluded that “[s]uch rules could prohibit concealed handguns in specific classrooms and campus areas at times where there may be a congregation of minors, as well as specific rooms where child-care services are provided, so long as those rules do not operate to ‘generally prohibit or have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns on the campus of the institution.'”
The OAG website clarifies that attorney general opinions are “a written interpretation of existing law. Attorney general opinions cannot create new provisions in the law or correct unintended, undesirable effects of the law. Attorney general opinions do not necessarily reflect the attorney general’s personal views, nor does the attorney general in any way ‘rule’ on what the law should say. Furthermore, attorney general opinions cannot resolve factual disputes.”
While attorney general opinions are highly persuasive and are entitled to great weight, the interpretation of the law or its constitutionality, is ultimately determined by the judicial system. The AG will not issue an AG opinion if there is pending litigation on the subject.
The campus carry law went into effect on August 1, the anniversary of the first mass-shooting in the nation. On August 1, 1966, a Marine who had been trained as a sniper, killed and wounded approximately 45 people on the University of Texas (UT) campus before he was gunned down by authorities. Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the 27-story clock tower in the middle of the university armed with a shotgun, rifles, and pistols. He engaged in what is considered the first mass shooting assault on civilians. He had already killed his wife and his mother before he climbed those stairs.
On August 2, 2016, Breitbart Texas reported that three University of Texas professors filed a request for a temporary injunction in federal court to block Texas’ new campus carry law. They filed the legal action the same day that the law took effect. Breitbart Texas reported on August 22, that Texas AG Ken Paxton was successful in obtaining an Order from a federal district judge denying the request by the three University of Texas professors to block enforcement of the new law. The Court found that the plaintiff professors were unlikely to prevail in their lawsuit; therefore, they did not meet the legal standard for being entitled to a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the campus carry law.