The Arkansas House of Representatives has voted in favor of a bill requiring public colleges and universities in Arkansas to allow firearms on their campuses.
The bill passed the House on a 71 to 22 vote. It mandates that the state's public institutions of higher learning allow licensed faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons while on the job. Republican Rep. Charlie Collins of Fayetteville, the primary sponsor of HB1249, introduced his bill by listing off of instances of mass-shootings on college campuses across America. Collins said the proposed requirement was about adding another level of security in an effort to stop other potential mass shooters.
“Only a fool would suggest that concealed carry holders replace law enforcement,” Collins said.
“We have policies, procedures, law enforcement, technology. And what I’m submitting to you, allowing staff and faculty who have a concealed carry license to carry at their college or university of work as an added measure to help reduce the number of deaths.”
Collins' legislation does not allow students to carry concealed weapons on affected campuses. The bill would replace a 2013 law providing an avenue for colleges to opt out of allowing concealed firearms on campus. So far the boards of all public universities and community colleges in Arkansas have done so.
The new bill does not include a similar opt out provision, but it does include measures that prohibit concealed firearms within a half-mile radius of a hospital or a federally-owned and operated presidential library. The bill also lends some concealed carry rulemaking authority to college and university governing bodies.
Collins called the bill “another tool in the toolbox” toward increasing safety.
“Am I claiming this is a magical pill? Of course not. Only an idiot would say this is a magic pill,” Collins said.
Speaking against the bill, Democratic Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville reiterated concerns of his constituency.
“The people I represent back in Fayetteville have just made it absolutely clear that they oppose this,” Leding said. “For those of you who don’t know, the entire University of Arkansas campus in Fayetteville is in the district that I represent. And a majority of the students, the parents of those students, the faculty, the staff, the Board of Trustees, the Athletic Department, the University of Arkansas Police Department and members of the Fayetteville Police Department have all made it clear that they oppose this bill.”
The bill now heads to the Senate.
This article was updated at 5:46pm on 2/2/17.