LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A proposal mandating Arkansas colleges and universities allow concealed handguns on campus would be expanded to include some students and visitors, if they undergo training, under a compromise struck Monday by lawmakers and the governor.
Supporters of the campus guns measure, the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee and Gov. Asa Hutchinson said they agreed to language that would allow anyone 25 and older with a state concealed handgun license to carry if they’ve undergone up to 16 hours of active shooter training.
The initial version of the bill would have required the schools to allow faculty and staff with a state concealed handgun license to carry, but the Senate tacked on a training requirement that the measure’s supporters opposed. Campus gun supporters say the new language addresses their concerns that the training would have limited the number of people who could carry on campus.
“We’ll give people good training for two days, but we’re also opening it up for more people to protect themselves,” Republican Sen. Trent Garner, a co-sponsor of the campus guns measure, told reporters.
A 2013 law leaves the decision on whether to allow faculty and staff to carry concealed guns to the schools, but no campus has opted to do so. Hutchinson said he supports the revised measure, citing a National Rifle Association task force he headed that called for armed trained school personnel after the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.
“The findings led me to recommend that schools, if able, should be allowed to have armed personnel on campus — only after rigorous training by credentialed professionals. This has always been my belief, which is why I support this amendment as it adds another layer of protection for students and faculty,” Hutchinson said in a statement.
Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, the committee’s chairman and the governor’s nephew, said he believed the new version would clear his panel. Hutchinson has proposed the initial training requirement that drew the ire of the campus carry supporters.
“You’re sufficiently old enough to be able to handle that responsibility and I think if they do receive training, they should be in just as good a position to responsibly handle that environment as a faculty member,” Hutchinson said.
The legislation is opposed by higher education officials, including the heads of the state’s largest university systems, who say the decision on concealed carry should be left to the individual schools.
Sen. Will Bond, the only Democrat on the committee, said he hadn’t seen the new language but said he still opposed any measure that would take the decision on concealed handguns away from college administrators.
“I think the local universities and colleges are the best ones to decide these issues in conjunction with their campus police and local law enforcement,” Bond said.