Rep. Charlie Collins’ bill to mandate that universities allow staff with permits to carry concealed weapons on campus will be before a Senate committee Wednesday and one opponent, John Pijanoski, chair of the Campus Faculty Senate at the University of Arkansas, has written about another problem with the legislation (apart from near universal campus opposition.)
Among other contradictions in law it will create is a question about application to places of worship. Under existing law, churches may choose to allow guns on premises or not. Campuses all over Arkansas have buildings dedicated as places of worship. Does the college carry bill override that self-determination?
Pijanoski’s letter to the Senate committee and Gov. Asa Hutchinson:
House Bill 1249, known as the campus carry bill, would create contradictions in state law, confusion among residents and police, and threaten to strip churches and places of worship of legal rights they currently enjoy in the state of Arkansas. These unintended consequences are a result of the authors of House Bill 1249 not fully understanding the extensive role places of worship play on college campuses throughout Arkansas. Regardless of how one feels about the merits of campus carry – it is in the best interest of the state to vote no on HB 1249 to avoid creating conflicting laws and preserving the rights currently enjoyed by churches and places of worship.
Currently The Church Protection Act provides individual places of worship with the authority to decide whether to allow concealed handguns and who could carry them. There are several instances where places of worship have a dedicated physical presence on Arkansas campuses. There are several other religious organizations that meet the federal definition of a place of worship and use shared campus facilities as their regular places of worship. HB 1249 did not account for places of worship on college campuses and so it is silent on this issue. If passed into law there will immediately be contradictory laws in place – HB 1249 and The Church Protection Act.
Furthermore, resolving this conflict will require the legislature, or the courts, to define what constitutes a “church” and a “place of worship” which is an endeavor that has not been publicly discussed with the citizens of Arkansas and the state’s religious institutions. The implications of defining a place of worship would likely include creating limits on what it means to worship. If not carefully considered this would result in an uproar among religious leaders and churchgoers to have their voices heard on that legislation.
The University of Arkansas Fayetteville campus alone has 46 religious organizations registered on campus, and 9 with a dedicated physical building that has been assigned a Campus Building Code.
For all of these reasons, I ask that the Arkansas State Senate and the Governor reject House Bill 1249 on the grounds that it creates conflicts with current law and fails to adequately grasp and account for the role of worship on our college campuses.
The University of Arkansas Fayetteville Campus Map can be found here
The following building codes and building names on the University of Arkansas map are dedicated to places of worship:
ABCM – Baptist Collegiate Ministry FIOR – Fayetteville Institute of Religion – LDS
ICNA – Islamic Center of Northwest Arkansas
LSCT – Lutheran Student Center
MART – St. Martin’s Episcopal University Center
PDCM – United Campus Ministry (Presbyterian Church, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ)
RFCS – The Church of Christ Student Center
STAQ – St. Thomas Aquinas University Parish
UUFF – Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
The list of 46 religious organizations that meet in shared campus spaces can be found here.
The gun is, unfortunately, a legislative sacrament. Thou Shalt Not Deter Gun Accessibility is the 11th Commandment.