The Senate Judiciary Committee this morning repeated a battle on gun legislation that was waged Tuesday night with another no-decision outcome.
Another effort was made to amend the campus carry bill proposed by Rep. Charlie Collins with Sen. Jim Hendren’s amendment — carrying the NRA seal of approval — to not only allow concealed carry on campus, but to allow it for all permit holders of any age, not just staff, with an additional eight hours of training. The amendment also would open concealed carry to more places than the law currently allows, including bars.
But any restriction was too much for the hardliners on the committee. The amendment failed on a 3-3 vote, with two not voting. Sens. Trent Garner, Chair Jeremy Hutchinson and Greg Standridge voted for the amendment. Republican Sens. Linda Collins-Smith and Gary Stubblefield voted against it, joined by Democratic Sen. Will Bond, who is opposed to looser restrictions on guns. Two senators, Terry Rice and Bryan King, did not vote.
And there the situation hangs. Rep. Charlie Collins backs the NRA-approved amendment, should the Senate somehow get behind it. The colleges and universities remain unanimously opposed. As I mentioned last night, a strong possibility remains that passage of this legislation would end up putting far more guns in far more places by far more people — on campus and everywhere else — than Collins’ original bill provided.
UPDATE from Benji, 2 p.m.:
Sen. Rice also tried to pass a separate bill, SB 585, that would appear to legalize open carry in Arkansas in virtually all circumstances. It would add a section to the Arkansas law on concealed carry that would state simply:
5-73-324. Unlicensed carry not prohibited.
This subchapter does not prohibit a person from carrying a handgun without a license to carry a concealed handgun under this subchapter, whether openly or concealed, if he or she is not otherwise prohibited by the laws of this state from possessing a firearm in the state as permitted by the United States Constitution.
It fell one vote short of approval, getting four votes — from King, Rice, Stubblefield and Collins-Smith.
Sen. Hutchinson said he was unclear about what Rice’s bill would actually accomplish. “I think the bill either does nothing, because it’s subject to the other laws in the state of Arkansas, or it abolishes all laws except perhaps for [restrictions] if you’re a felon. In which case, you’d be able to walk into kids’ K-12 schools … bars … anywhere.”
Rice was evasive about whether the bill would or would not undo such restrictions on guns. When Sen. Garner asked whether the law would allow somebody to carry a handgun into a jail, a police station or the Capitol, Rice responded that it depends on how courts interpreted the statute. “It would allow whatever this law finds that it would allow,” he said. That gave Garner an opening to not support the bill. He said he is for “constitutional carry” but that he worried Rice’s bill would give “a backdoor way to allow the court system to destroy what you’re trying to do.”
One citizen who spoke for the bill was Jan Morgan, who operates a shooting range in Hot Springs known for declaring itself a “Muslim-free zone.” Morgan said restrictions on guns on the Capitol grounds infringe on her Second Amendment rights.
“I resent the fact that I had to stand on a street corner and walk blocks to get here today, unarmed, to come to my own state Capitol to address our legislators, who are surrounded by armed guards … and yet I had to walk down this crime-ridden city, which is number one per capita in the nation for crime, unarmed, because of our laws,” she said. “I am so disappointed that I am here in my own state having to fight for something that I thought our own Republican senators understood and were going to stand for. … Don’t forget who put you in office. We won’t forget your decision.”