The Arkansas Senate voted Thursday to require college and university employees who want to carry concealed handguns on campus to first undergo additional training, prompting a Republican lawmaker to expand the campus-carry proposal to allow some students and visitors to participate.
The Senate voted 22-10 to add a provision mandating 16 hours of active shooter training to a House-backed measure requiring the schools to allow faculty and staff with a license to carry a concealed firearm on campus. The Senate is expected to vote next week on the proposal.
“Nobody is claiming 16 hours is going to make you an expert,” Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson said of the training provision, which had been rejected a day earlier by a Senate panel. “But 16 hours is better than no hours.” A 2013 law allows faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns but leaves the decision up to the college or university. No school has opted to do so.
The training provision faced opposition from supporters of the campus guns legislation who say it would render the bill meaningless by limiting the number of people who could carry concealed firearms. Republican Sen. Trent Garner, who co-sponsored the bill, said he’ll propose an amendment to allow anyone to carry on campus, as long as they have a license and have undergone the required training.
“If they want to put that requirement on there, with 16 hours of intense, out-of-pocket expenses, we have to let every Arkansan who wants to go on a college campus be able to participate in that,” Garner told reporters.
Arkansas law allows someone to apply for a concealed carry license if they’re at least 21 years old. Someone who’s at least 18 can apply if they’re an active duty member of the armed forces or have received an honorable discharge.
If the legislation becomes law, Arkansas will join a handful of states that require schools to allow concealed handguns. Two states, Colorado and Utah, force colleges to allow all permit holders to carry on campus while seven other states require schools to allow concealed guns in certain circumstances, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy group.
The campus guns measure faces opposition from higher education officials, including the heads of the state’s largest university systems, who say the decision on concealed guns should remain with the schools. They’ve also complained about the lack of exemptions for laboratories or mental health facilities on campus.
The proposal has drawn a lukewarm response from Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who headed a National Rifle Association task force on school security after the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting. Hutchinson has said he’s inclined to leave the decision up to the schools, but has stopped short of saying he opposes the measure.