Senate Committee Passes HB 1249; Conway Discusses Issues

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State representatives argued Feb. 13 that the concealed carry bill is a matter of public safety and should therefore be handled by law enforcement.

The bill passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Feb. 15 and an amendment to the bill was added, according to the Arkansas Times website. Senator Trent Garner proposed that anyone 25 years old or older with a concealed carry permit can carry a rearm on campus as long as they take an additional 16 hours of State Police training, according to the Arkansas Times website.

According to a Nontraditional Students Office brochure from 2014, 18 percent of UCA students are over the age of 25.

Approximately 28 percent of all college students in Arkansas were 25 or older in 2015, including private and two- year schools, according to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education.

The bill itself eliminates the option for universities to disallow faculty to carry concealed guns on campus. In the rst town hall meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9, Rep. Charlie Collins met with a lled auditorium to discuss his reasons for introducing HB 1249.

A week later in Doyne auditorium, Rep. Clarke Tucker of District 35 and Rep. Charles Blake of District 36 explained their opposition to the bill.

“It’s not being presented as a gun rights issue, it’s being presented as a public safety issue, and on questions of public safety I think we need to refer to law enforcement,” Tucker said.

Representatives of the Arkansas State University system, community colleges and police forces all argued against the bill in the House committee. Because the bill is an issue of public safety, the two representatives felt those voices should be listened to.

“I want to listen to the expertise of law enforcement of cials on college campuses across the state who believe strongly and unanimously that this bill will make college campus environments less safe,” Tucker said.

If the bill were a gun rights issue, it would require all school systems, public or private, to allow all people within those schools, including students, to carry concealed rearms.

As it stands, the bill would only apply to faculty with concealed carry permits.

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea for individuals that don’t do training day-to-day to be held responsible,” Veteran Service Coordinator David Williams said. “The best thing that they could possibly do for us if they feel that there is some threat on campus is add more police of cers or get more security equipment.”

The representatives also argued that because campuses typically have campus police, those police of cers can respond faster than typical police forces.

“There’s a big difference between a very contained geographical area and the world at large,” Tucker said.

A final argument the representatives made against the bill was that it would deter potential students and faculty from attending or teaching at public institutions.

“Having guns on campus scares us,” junior Katharine Stanley said. “That idea is scary, aside from the campus police who are trained to use them.”

Stanley disagrees with the bill. She said at the meeting that she would attend the Feb. 15 Senate Committee meeting.

“People who know better telling representative Collins and his people that this is a bad idea obviously hasn’t done anything to change his mind,” Stanley said. “If this is the last chance that we have to maybe not let this happen, or at the very least take some of its teeth out, then it’s de nitely worth waking up at seven and driving down to Little Rock at 8:30 a.m.,” Stanley said.

Photo by Anna Suarez

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