Judge Rules for Students In First Amendment Case
Last fall, two students at Tarrant County College students were prohibited from demonstrating in favor of licensed concealed handgun owners to be able to bring weapons on campus. This week a federal judge ruled that TCC violated the First Amendment rights of the students in barring them from holding these empty-holster protests.
Judge Means said the college’s co-sponsorship provision, which limits students’ ability to invite off-campus organizations on campus, “prohibits students from the most basic forms of expressive activity — distribution of literature, use of signs and even assembly — based on no more than the fact that the expression might depend on an off-campus organization for planning or management.”
The American Civil Liberties Union helped the students file suit against the college, and the trial quickly became a matter of free speech rather than gun rights.
After the lawsuit was filed, TCC modified its student guidebook to allow empty-holster protests in public areas on campus, but not in classrooms or hallways. But the Court's final decision permanently blocked TCC Chancellor Erma Johnson Hadley and the College from obstructing such protests anywhere on campus, including in classrooms.
Empty-holster protests began taking place across college campuses in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting as a way to advocate for students being allowed to carry firearms on campus.
TCC attorney Angela Robinson said Judge Means’s ruling did not surprise her.
"The college approached this from a safety issue; the plaintiffs approached this as a First Amendment issue," Robinson said. "The court issued a very detailed opinion and it did strike a fair balance to both sides."
More from the Star Telegram