A bill to allow public university faculty and staff who have concealed handgun permits to bring their guns on campus passed a vote in the House of Representatives Friday morning.
Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) sponsored the legislation. He said it will make campuses safer from potential mass shootings.
“We’ve got a serious problem in America. On our college campuses, about every two months, we have somewhere in the country, a shooting incident,” Collins said.
Rep. David Whitaker (D-Fayetteville) spoke against the bill. He urged his colleagues to “take a walk on this one, get a cup of coffee, start your weekend early,” so they could avoid voting against gun legislation.
Whitaker’s problem with the bill, he said, was that the opt-out clause requires schools to decide yearly, rather than for an indefinite period, whether they want to allow guns.
“Leave the colleges and universities alone to make these decisions for themselves,” he said.
Collins said he added the opt-out clause so state colleges would agree not to oppose it.
“We’ve worked hard to make sure that we can make a step forward in terms of protecting the lives of our loved ones in Arkansas, but at the same time, not create new dangers and ensure that we’ve got some alignment with those folks that matter a lot to us in terms of the public colleges,” Collins said.
The bill passed 70 to 11 with one member voting present.
The Governor has said he will likely sign the bill into law because it now has the opt-out provision.