Concealed weapons bill awaits Arkansas governor's signature
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Permit holders who receive active shooting training would be able to carry concealed weapons almost anywhere in Arkansas, even the state Capitol, under a measure lawmakers sent Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday that goes far beyond the original goal of protecting college campuses.
Hutchinson, who chaired a National Rifle Association task force that called for trained, armed staff at schools after the 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, says he'll sign the measure that would become one of the broadest such laws in the country.
Here are some key elements facts about the bill that passed the Arkansas House on Wednesday and now awaits the governor's signature:
WHAT WOULD IT DO?
Any state resident 21 or older can apply for a concealed weapons permit, and that permit would become enhanced after completing eight hours of active shooting training.
With the enhanced permit, they would be allowed to carry concealed firearms on college campuses and other public buildings. It also provides them access to private establishments like bars, restaurants and places of worship — unless there are weapons prohibitions posted at the facilities. Concealed handguns would still be banned at K-12 schools, courtrooms and prisons.
Concealed carry would be prohibited from disciplinary hearings on campus grounds. Private colleges and universities that do not want to allow concealed carry on their campuses must post notices with that designation.
The Arkansas State Police will design the training curriculum. The actual training will be conducted by certified trainers throughout the state. State police may waive up to four hours of training based on the license holder's prior training within ten years of applying for the permit endorsement.
HOW HAS IT CHANGED?
The NRA-backed bill barely resembles the one Republican Rep. Charlie Collins initially introduced to grant concealed weapon permits to faculty in an effort to help them respond to potential campus attacks.
A subsequent version would have allowed anyone 25 and older with a concealed handgun license to carry on a college campus if the person undergoes up to 16 hours of active shooter training. The NRA objected to the training and age restrictions, and the measure stalled before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The age restrictions were eventually removed from the measure, but the training component was reduced.
University of Arkansas System spokesman Nate Hinkel said the next step for the system is to ensure its policies and practices align with the law.
"Our position has always been that we believe a decision such as this that involves the safety our our students is best left to our board of trustees, which has voted continuously to disallow concealed handguns on our campuses at the advice of our law enforcement officials," Hinkel said.
HOW WILL ARKANSAS COMPARE TO OTHER STATES?
According to nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety, this bill would make Arkansas the 10th state to allow guns on campuses. The organization also says bills passed over the last few years in Idaho, Tennessee and Texas are more limited than Arkansas' proposed legislation, and contain more exemptions for sensitive places on campus.
Since the bill has expanded beyond campus carry, Everytown's legal counsel Andrew Karwoski called it "an unusual piece of legislation."
"States that have this type system include Mississippi — where a permit holder who undergoes a training course can carry in almost any sensitive location, and Idaho — where enhanced permit holders can carry on college campuses," Karwoski said.
Indiana recently held a hearing on a bill allowing legislative employees to carry guns.
Everytown for Gun Safety plans to run an ad in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Thursday urging Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the bill.