UPDATE: After two hours of debate, a Senate committee today endorsed the bill to force state colleges to allow staff with concealed carry permits to carry their guns on campus.
Two audible “no” votes were heard, but Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, chair of the committee, ruled the bill had passed. He’d earlier attempted unsuccessfully to amend the bill to require additional active shooter training for those who carry on campus.
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I was told later one audible “no” wasn’t a member of the committee. Sen. Will Bond of Little Rock was the only opponent.
The earlier reporting:
The bill to allow university staff to bring concealed weapons on campus, already passed in the House, is before a Senate committee today and sure to receive the wide objections it has received since the issue arose.
Rep. Charlie Collins wasn’t satisfied with a 2015 compromise that allowed concealed carry for staff with approval from campus governing boards. He wants to force guns on campus, since not a single public institution in Arkansas, or their police agencies, want it.
Drew Petrimoulx of KARK reports that the Department of Higher Education tried to work a compromise to allow the bill if amended to say gun carriers first had to obtain additional training. That was a no-go with the NRA, the driver of the more-guns-everywhere agenda. It wants anyone 21 or over to be able to pack heat on campus. It has not yet come out for concealed carry in the state Capitol galleries, however.
We’ll have more later on the committee outcome.
A spectator describes Collins’ testimony for his bill as reading from NRA talking points. Chief point: Guns on campus will deter mass shootings. There have been no such shootings in Arkansas. Students at the Oregon community college that was scene of mass shooting were allowed to bring guns on campus if they had concealed carry permits.
Sen. Will Bond, a Little Rock Democrat, has questioned Collins at length. He raised the issue of how police will differentiate between good and bad guys and he noted a Johns Hopkins University study that disputes the contention that more guns on campus make them safer. He drew out that no police agencies support the bill and that there will be no way to know the identities of those with guns. Also, only one other SEC school, Tennessee, allows guns on campus.
Collins said he had no plan to move after this legislation to push for open carry on campus.
Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson asked why Collins hadn’t considered requiring more training for college staff to carry on campus, as is required for teachers approved for carry in K-12 schools. Collins contends the situations aren’t analagous because the K-12 staff carrying weapons are essentially auxiliary law officers. That’s not how college staff will be viewed.
Opponents included a speaker from a mothers group working for common sense gun laws. The head of a vo-tech school in Springdale spoke in support of the bill. He said he has 12 to 15 people with concealed carry permits and if they were allowed on campus, they’d have sufficient training to be “watchdogs” against “people who want to do us harm.” As the only post-secondary school leader in favor of the bill, he said he wouldn’t oppose required additional training for any allowed to carry guns.
Hutchinson proposed an amendment that would require 16 hours of active shooter training for a faculty member to take a gun on campus if the bill passes. He said he’d supported more guns on K-12 campuses through legislation, but that legislation included required active shooter training. He said the college situation should be the same.
Trent Garner objected to the additional cost, which Hutchinson said would be borne by the permit holder. Collins said the additional requirement would delay implementation of more guns on campus and reduce the deterrent effect.
Hutchinson said he’d been through an active shooter training class and said those situations are far different than the static target shooting required of conventional carry permits. He said it was “terrifying” even though he knew it was only a training exercise. He didn’t mention the full story — he accidentally shot a “teacher” who was confronting a “bad guy.”
Collins said a new restriction would defeat the purpose of his bill.
The committee defeated a motion to adopt the amendment.
Debate continued, with opponents outnumbering supporters. Opponents included Chuck Welch, head of the Arkansas State University System.
In closing, Trent Garner answered those who complained about the loss of local control by saying the highest form of local control was the individual. Talk about a slippery slope if that logic is to take hold across the legislative spectrum. Anarchy would be an appropriate word.
UPDATE: Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America denounced the vote in a statement from Austin Bailey, leader of the Arkansas chapter:
“Our college campuses are not hotbeds of criminal activity – they’re sanctuaries for learning, and they’re overwhelmingly safe. When it comes to safety on college campuses, we should listen to the people who actually work and live on college campuses, and they don’t want this bill to pass. It’s frustrating to once again watch university presidents and campus law enforcement tell our legislators that HB 1249 is a dangerous idea and have their resounding opposition to this legislation be ignored. The committee should have put the safety of our students and campus professionals ahead of special interests.”