Gov. Asa Hutchinson lit up Twitter yesterday with a comment at his legislative preview news conference that drew little notice in most press coverage, KARK/Fox 16 being one notable exception along with us.
The subject was Rep. Charlie Collins’ continuing campaign to require colleges to allow staff to bring concealed weapons on campus. To date, he has only been able to pass a law giving campuses the option if governing boards choose. None has.
Asked about this yesterday, Gov. Hutchinson said: “They have the opportunity to opt out of the campus carry. That’s the law right now and that’s what I think is a very workable arrangement.”
Somewhat surprising from Hutchinson, who’s served as a spokesman for the NRA and in that role has spoken approvingly of having more people with arms in grade schools.
University people who are engaged in this issue filled Twitter yesterday with glowing tributes to the governor.
Example from a UA faculty member:
Kudos to @AsaHutchinson for supporting the core principle of local control and affirming that campus carry as a local decision is working.
Commented Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville, an opponent of the gun proposal:
It’s better to let each campus figure out what it needs to keep people safe. No need for a one-size-fits-all policy.
A cautionary word: Hutchinson could be as sincere as he sounded while still expecting his thoughts to have little impact if the gun-friendly legislature approves Collins’ bill. Arkansas’s easy veto override (51 percent of members) dissuaded Hutchinson from even trying a veto on anti-LGBT legislation in 2015 that he professed to be disinclined to support. He can project a moderate image with such pronouncements without suffering any real political damage among the fire-breathers by doing nothing. But let us hope for the best — that the governor’s common sense outlook and continuing university opposition could lead to a rare defeat for the gun lobby.