Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a bill into law Wednesday that allows concealed firearms to be carried on college campuses, governmental buildings, some bars, and even the state Capitol. The state Senate this week also approved an exemption from the law for college sporting events.
Lawmakers say the exemption, which now heads to the House for a vote after passing in the Senate 22-10, is designed to address concerns about allowing armed spectators in stadiums and arenas.
The change would also exempt the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the state hospital from the gun rights expansion, according to this story from espn.com.
The story points out that the new law, which takes effect September 15, would allow firearms to be carried in Razorback Stadium, while umbrellas would remain banned, if it remains unchanged.
“It’s one of those areas where I don’t think the value offsets the risk,” said Republican Sen. Jim Hendren, the Senate majority leader, said in the story. “There’s alcohol, there’s people getting excited and so probably I think most people agree that maybe this is one of those areas we ought to think about before we expand the privileges.”
While the law goes into effect in September, the story says it also gives Arkansas State Police until January 2018 to design the additional training required to carry in the expanded locations, which includes eight hours of active shooter training.
The story says more than 220,000 people in Arkansas have a legal concealed carry license.
The NRA, which backed the bill in its original form, is not in favor of the exemption.
“Only criminals can find safety in gun-free zones,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action in this story from USA Today. “By allowing enhanced permit holders to carry in more places, Gov. Hutchinson has made Arkansas a safer place to live.”
The story says the new law supersedes one passed in 2013 that allowed faculty and staff to carry concealed firearms on college and university campuses. Under that law, schools were able to opt out and create their own rules, which each state school did. The recently passed law does not contain any opt-out provision.
“While we have expressed concerns regarding the bill, we recognize the General Assembly has spoken and we will begin preparations to comply with the law when it goes into effect this fall,” said Charles L. Welch, president of Arkansas State University, in the story. “We understand that there is proposed legislation that has been amended today (Thursday) that would prohibit carrying at collegiate athletic events and we will be monitoring the progress of this legislation.”
The new law prohibits concealed carry at disciplinary hearings on campus grounds and private schools that don’t allow concealed carry must post notices declaring that designation. Residents still cannot carry in federal buildings.