Sen. Jonathan Dismang ran into opposition but today still passed his bill to add exceptions to legislation signed yesterday to expand where qualified concealed carry permit holders may take weapons.
The vote was 22-10. Here is the roll call on a subsequent 22-8 vote, with three not voting and two members excused, on a slightly amended version of the bill.
Dismang’s bill provides for gun bans at UAMS, the State Hospital and collegiate athletic events and venues. His amendment also allows private colleges to ban weapons but not be required to post a sign about the ban as the new law provided. The Dismang measure additionally provides that universities couldn’t be liable for actions by people who took a concealed weapon on campus.
Sen. Trent Garner angrily objected. “It will kill the campus carry bill we just passed,” he said. He cited this portion of the bill:
“Public teaching hospital” means a publicly funded institution of higher education that also includes a hospital or other facility where health care is administered either in an instructional setting or in another setting.”
He said that language could apply to clinics on any college campus that “administer health care.” He said it was the “perfect loophole” for colleges to get out of the expanded concealed carry bill entirely.
He said he might be amenable to an exemption for UAMS alone, but he also expressed some sentiment for guns there because it received public money, had large numbers of people making more than $100,000 in public money and served people who came from all over the state. He disputed those who’ve said guns at UAMS could harm the institution’s accreditation. He said he’d searched and found no support for that argument.
He also objected to the addition of an exclusion of athletic events. He said there’d been “a dozen killings” at athletic events in the last 50 years. His point seemed to be that more guns were necessary at sports events because of violence sometimes associated with athletics.
Garner said Arkansas, with yesterday’s new law, had “set a new standard” for the county by expanding concealed carry rights for people with eight additional hours of training.
“After all that, we’re still treating people exercising their 2nd Amendment rights like they are criminals,” he said.
Dismang said his intention on the amendment was not to create a loophole for all colleges and that he only intended to exempt UAMS and the State Hospital. He said he’d be open to changes to further clarify that, but urged Senate approval today because time in the session is growing short.
The legislation signed yesterday began as a bill to allow university staff with permits to carry guns on campus. No university wanted the bill. The NRA got involved and the final result was a dramatic expansion of places where guns may be carried, if a permit holder gets an additional day of training to be outline by the State Police. The law takes effect in September, but the new training and people to teach it aren’t expected to be in place until the first of 2018.
So, even if Dismang’s bill passes, existing law prevails. Concealed carry permits that currently exist aren’t good enough to go on college campuses, in courthouses, at athletic events, in public buildings, in bars, in churches and other places.
UPDATE: The Senate moved Thursday afternoon to amend Dismang’s bill to clarify that the exception for UAMS and the State Hospital wasn’t intended to provide an exception for any other college campus. It then again approved the bill and sent it to the House.
UPDATE II: The NRA announced it will oppose the amendment:
The NRA supports the original legislation as signed into law less than 24 hours ago. People have the constitutional right to self-defense wherever they are legally allowed to be. We adamantly opposes SB 724 and will work to stop it in the House Judiciary Committee.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he supports the Dismang bill, in a rare break from the gun lobby for the governor. He told AP the exemption for football games came from “concerns” from”many” in the state. I wish the FOI covered his office. We’d know how “many” called with “concerns” about guns in classrooms.