LITTLE ROCK — The House on Thursday approved a bill that would allow faculty and staff of public colleges and universities in Arkansas to carry concealed handguns on campus if they have concealed-carry permits and would not allow the schools to object.
In a 71-22 vote, the House approved House Bill 1249 by Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville. The bill goes to the Senate.
Collins was the sponsor of a 2013 law that allows college faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns on campus if they have concealed-carry permits, with a provision allowing schools to opt out of the law if their governing bodies choose to. Every institution covered by the law has opted out every year since the law was passed.
HB 1249 would eliminate the opt-out option.
Collins told House members his bill would help schools respond to mass shootings and would deter some shootings from happening. He acknowledged that law enforcement agencies and colleges have adjusted their training and policies to deal with shootings, but he said allowing college personnel to carry guns would further enhance safety.
“This can be another tool in the toolbox that helps keep our kids safe,” Collins said.
Speaking against the bill, Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, said the University of Arkansas is in his district.
“A majority of the students, parents of those students, faculty, the staff, the board of trustees, the athletic department, the University of Arkansas Police Department, members of the Fayetteville Police Department have all made it clear that they oppose this bill. They don’t think it will make campus safer,” he said.
Speaking in support of the bill, Rep. Mickey Gates, R-Hot Springs, choked up as he described a fatal shooting that occurred in 1982 on a campus in his district.
“This is not fake news. This is real news. This college was Garland Community College, now known as National Park. It’s in my town, it’s in my county, it’s in my district, these are my people,” he said.
Campus shooters are “not reading the signs on the wall saying no guns,” he said.
Collins’ bill would not allow students to carry guns and would not allow guns to be carried into a child-care facility on campus. It also includes exemptions for the Clinton School of Public Service and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.