The House today concurred in amendments to the campus carry gun bill added in the Senate, completing action on the legislation. The vote was 71-18, with two voting present.
Rep. Charlie Collins‘ HB 1249 started with the intention of forcing colleges to allow staff to carry permitted concealed guns on campus. Every public college opposed the bill. In the Senate, amendments added an additional training requirement for those who went to carry guns on campus, but expanded the right beyond staff to anyone with a permit. The bill also opened places previously closed to concealed weapons — the Capitol, courthouses, UAMS, the Clinton School, bars, churches, sporting events and many other places.
To be qualified, concealed carry permit holders must take an additional training course of up to eight hours, a program yet to be crafted by the State Police.
Collins, in explaining his bill, said he’d begun merely with the idea of making the campuses safer from mass shootings. None has occurred in Arkansas. He’s pushed the idea for years getting only to the point of passing a law that allowed colleges to permit concealed weapons if they chose. None did. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, an ardent NRA backer over the years, threw support to the bill with the additional training.
He said the bill had “improvements” and spoke warmly of the training requirement that opened the bill to more guns in more places.
Rep. John Walker opposed the legislation. “I’m reminded of the Old West,” he said. He said it would “de-dignify” the legislative process by saying “we should be able to carry weapons to protect ourselves from each other.” He doubted whether the additional training was sufficient, but it would allow people with guns to terrorize others whenever and wherever they wish. “I think the bill absolutely goes too far.”
Rep. Karilyn Brown of Sherwood said she was “not the little old lady from Pasadena,” but she was a girl and a woman and that having her concealed carry with her when she traveled was “very important.”
Rep. Kim Hendren said the bill puts everyone at a disadvantage from the possibility of more guns in the chamber and elsewhere.
Rep. Rebecca Petty said the Arkansas Constitution prohibited dueling so members fearful of others with guns should be safe.