Texas students get go-ahead for empty-holster protests

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

FORT WORTH, Texas — A federal judge ruled late last week that Tarrant County College students may wear empty gun holsters in public areas when they protest a ban of concealed weapons on campus this week.

However, they can't wear the holsters in the Fort Worth-area school's classrooms and hallways.

Clayton Smith and John Schwertz filed a federal lawsuit on Nov. 3, saying school officials had limited their protest to a table on the front porch of the student center, and told them they couldn't wear empty holsters. The students contended that the college system restricted their First Amendment rights by controlling the time, place and manner of protests.

U. S. District Judge Terry R. Means of Fort Worth granted a temporary restraining order on Nov. 6. The order prevents Tarrant County College from restricting the protest by Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

The students said they planned to participate in a nationwide demonstration this week known as “empty holster protests,” calling attention to police policies forbidding licensed gun holders from carrying concealed weapons on campuses.

“I am pretty excited and happy for all of the students at TCC, whatever their cause is, to speak freely and get their message out,” Smith told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Smith also told the newspaper that four students were planning to wear holsters and hand out fliers but that they weren’t planning a mass protest.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas represent the two students.

The Star-Telegram also reported that Lisa Graybill, legal director of the Texas ACLU, said: “This decision means that at least for next week, students on TCC’s campus will be able to freely exercise their First Amendment rights.”

A hearing in the case is set for Nov. 16 in federal court in Fort Worth.

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