Rep. Charlie Collins accepted a tepid amendment to his bill to require colleges to allow staff members to carry concealed weapons on campus and it promptly was endorsed by the committee.
The Committee had split 10-10 on partisan lines earlier and failed to approve the bill. It passed today on a voice vote. No one called for a roll call, a sign the deal was cut among Democrats. There was a scattering of nays.
Today, Democrats endorsed an amendment that said colleges could — but were not required to — choose to require that staff members who wanted to carry concealed weapons on campus to take an active shooter course, require them to get eight hours of annual updated training and to prevent the staff members from carrying concealed weapons near daycare facilities. Universities could opt those who qualify to notify that they have a permit and are certified, so that police officers would know that if an active shooter situation arose.
Rep. Warwick Sabin’s questioning made clear the amendment was optional, not mandatory.
Collins said the amendment reduced the risk of problems on campus. (Though it doesn’t if campuses don’t avail themselves of the new options and simply allow concealed carry permit holders to go on campus, which the bill would allow.)
Rep. Scott Baltz, a Democrat, presented the amendment. He said it addressed his concerns that an average concealed carry permit holder’s training wasn’t sufficient for an active shooter situation.
Collins tried to clear staff concealed carry in 2013, but was forced to amend the bill to make it optional for campuses. No college in Arkansas wanted it.
Why wouldn’t we require the campuses to require the additional training, Sabin asked.
Collins said the option might make it a better bill. But he indicated he hoped colleges would decide a concealed carry permit was sufficient to make a college comfortable about having staff armed on campus.
Won’t this bill take away local control, Collins was asked?
Collins said — hold your hat — it was the epitome of local control — at the individual level of the concealed carry holder. This is a concept of local control that we’d like to say extended to taxes and many other areas of government regulation.
John Walker objected to the fact that the bill would extend anonymity to those allowed to carry weapons on campus, even under the option to require more training. Collins said he just “modeled” the amendment after state law on the concealed carry permits, now kept secret.
The gun lobby put intense pressure on committee Democrats. They also have some hopes, despite their small minority, of getting some support in return from Republicans on other legislation. My guess would be that, if they do, it wasn’t very controversial to begin with.
PS — UAMS and the Clinton School (next door to the presidential library and attendant security concerns) are exempt. They may still ban weapons.