UPDATE: Shortly after the SEC voiced objections to guns at sporting events in Arkansas, the House Judiciary Committee took up a bill to ban them there and make other amendments to new legislation that expanded places where concealed weapons can be taken in Arkansas. The committee approved the amendments and sent the bill to the House floor.
Here’s what occurred during the day:
The AP reported that the Southeastern Conference, from which millions flow into University of Arkansas coffers, had asked the state to exempt college sports events from a newly expanded gun law that allows concealed weapons on college campuses, in the Capitol, in courthouses, in bars and in many other places.
This is the aim of an amendment to the new law that had cleared the Senate but hadn’t been acted on in the House yet. The NRA says it opposes this change. But reports AP:
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said Tuesday that the measure signed into law last week by Gov. Asa Hutchinson creates concerns for the conference and its member institutions.
Sports got prompt attention where the cries of every college board and hundreds if not thousands of students and parents against the bill did not.
Rep. Charlie Collins, who started the gun bill rolling, was interviewed on a sports talk show:
Collins: I’m confident that what we do won’t put ourselves in jeopardy of the NCAA penalizing Arkansas.
— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) March 28, 2017
Collins said he expects to see alignment on an amendment later Tuesday that would alleviate concerns about the bill when it comes to allowing concealed carry at athletic venues.
“My expectation is that it will be the kind of amendment that satiates this issue, that takes down the concern that somehow the NCAA is going to have some kind of negatives for Arkansas, because certainly no one intends for that to happen,” Collins said.
Collins said the legislature has no desire to hurt collegiate athletics in the state of Arkansas.
Students? Daycares? Bar patrons? High school football crowds? Parks?
Collins soon after unveiled new amendments to the Judiciary Committee by Rep. Bob Ballinger for the Senate bill. He said he didn’t fear some of the “sky is falling” predictions made by opponents of the bill. But he said the changes mean, “We can have confidence everything will move forward smoothly.” It says, as to a ban on guns at sporting events, that colleges will define “sensitive areas.” This same allowance will be given UAMS to define sensitive areas, rather than giving a blanket exemption to the entire campus. Daycares were added to the section prohibiting guns on K-12 campuses. The bill requires security plans for those who declare firearm sensitive areas where guns are prohibited.
The NRA testified against the amendment. Lobbyist Anthony Roulette said it found “a number of problems.” Firearm-sensitive areas defined in the bill are too broad, he said, and he had similar criticism of the exception for sporting events. If law-abiding citizens are going to be prohibited from having guns, other steps must be guaranteed to guard against non-law-abiding citizens. The definition of athletic events is also vague, he said. It migth include parking lots, which would move law backward, he said. He said he feared adjacent building and grounds could also be banned.
Other speakers included Jan Morgan, a pro-gun advocate who appears frequently on Fox News who said she couldn’t believe that, of all places, Arkansas and Republican politicians were taking any steps to limit “gun rights.” Why? She was told the governor. She said she tried to confront the governor, but couldn’t get past senior staff. She called opposition “politically correct, dirty games.”
“You are not here to do the will of Asa Hutchinson,” said Morgan, her voice rising. She said her daughter went to college in Texas, not her native Arkansas, because she wanted to be on a place where she could be protected by her concealed weapon. “We sholdn’t be here discussing gun rights issues. This should be a no-brainer. …. You vote in favor of this amendment, I”m going to be your worst enemy.”
Rep. Bob Ballinger and Sen. Jon Dismang spoke for the bill. They said they’d work to see that it wouldn’t be abused as the NRA feared to spread gun-free zones. Ballinger, a staunch gun advocate, indicated he thought compromise was a better approach than simply fighting any changes to the law Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed last week.
Rep. Doug House brought up the issue of whether the legislature could even set rules for universities given the autonomy granted universities in Arkansas by Amendment 33.
In the end, the bill got a do-pass recommendation on a divided roll call vote. With the new amendments, if the bill passes the House, it will have to return to the Senate for concurrence.