A bill passed in the Arkansas House of Representatives Monday would require public universities to allow faculty and staff with concealed carry permits to bring firearms on campus. It now heads to the Senate.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Charlie Collins of Fayetteville, said during debate that the proposal would serve as a deterrent to those considering committing a mass shooting.
"When somebody plans to create an event where he can be a star on the TV news, get the revenge he’s after, it’s virtually impossible for law enforcement to be at the right place at the right time," Collins said. "The only way to (prevent) that type of situation is with something like concealed carry."
But fellow Republican Rep. Kim Hendren of Gravette spoke against it, arguing police responding to a shooting might not be able to tell who the attacker is.
"You go into these situations like this, the law enforcement people, whoever they are, they’re going to be shooting the people that have got the guns. I’m not sure if I had a permit that I’d even want to use it at that point," Hendren said.
The bill removes a provision from a 2013 law that allowed universities to opt out. All 33 public institutions decided they didn’t want staff to be armed.
Rep.Mark McElroy, a Democrat from Tillar, believes universities should be allowed to make that decision.
"I’m going to look really silly because they’re going to say 'McElroy, he’s a mamby pamby, he hates guns.' No, I love guns. But are we for local control? We say we are until we’re not," McElroy said. "These colleges have pleaded with us, 'just let us tend to our own affairs.' Is that asking too much?"
After about 20 minutes of debate, the House passed the bill 66-25, with two lawmakers voting present.
Governor Asa Hutchinson was asked about the legislation during a press conference Monday. He said his concern was what kind of training people carrying a firearm would have. But Hutchinson, a Republican, said he has been swayed by an amendment that would let universities mandate training for active shooter situations.
"I’m supportive of that amendment. We’ll continue to watch it through the legislative process at this point. It’s something that makes sense to me with that additional training requirement."
The bill requires concealed carry holders to have Arkansas licenses. It also allows universities to bar anyone from bringing a gun into an on-campus day care or event.