In 2013, Arkansas adopted a law to allow the decision about concealed carry on public colleges and universities up to the individual school. Not one school took advantage of that choice. However, on Thursday, the Arkansas House voted to require that these schools allow concealed handguns on campus. The majority-Republican House approved the measure in a 71-22 vote. The proposal now heads to the majority-GOP Senate.
Republican Rep. Charlie Collins proposed the 2013 law as he believed it would help dissuade potential mass shooters while assisting existing campus security.
“I’m recommending to you that we allow faculty and staff who have a concealed carry permit to carry on campus, not to create more gunfights at the O.K. Corral but to deter some of the gunfights that we might otherwise have,” Collins said.
Only a small number of states have mandated that schools should be allowed to carry concealed handguns and Arkansas just might be added to the list. Currently, Colorado and Utah force colleges to allow all permit holders to carry on campus. Seven additional states require schools to allow concealed guns in certain situations.
Gun rights opponents say they are unsure why allowing the schools to make their own decisions about campus carry isn’t enough.
“Eventually, one of them I’m sure will vote to adopt it, but at least it will be a decision they have made at the local level, where people know best how to keep their campuses safe,” Democratic Rep. Greg Leding said.
Austin Bailey, the head of the Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America spoke out in opposition.
“Our law enforcement officers have told us that this legislation will make their jobs harder and more dangerous in crisis situations, and Arkansas professors have told us that this will change the focused learning environment they’re trying to cultivate in their classrooms,” she said.
Exemptions from Collin’s proposal would include the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the Clinton School for Public Service, and at day cares on college campuses. This measure is one of many that seek gun rights expansion since Republicans have made their majorities in the state Legislature larger. Other measures will include requiring private employers to allow employees with concealed handgun licenses to keep their firearms locked in their cars at work and creating a sales tax holiday weekend for firearms purchases.