RIC and ASG Tackle Controversial Topic
Associated Student Government and RIC senators will soon propose legislation to support concealed carry of firearms on the UA campus. In response, another senator has planned to propose a resolution to support the UA’s current policy that makes the UA campus a gun-free zone.
Joe Youngblood, RIC senator and author of two pro concealed carry bills that have been presented to both RIC and ASG, said that he hopes this legislation will contribute to the growing momentum of the campus carry movement at the UA.
The first proposed bill is a resolution of support for Ark. State Representative Charlie Collin’s bill that seeks to change state law to allow faculty and staff with an Ark. concealed handgun license to carry their weapon on and inside university buildings, which is currently against state law, Youngblood said.
The second bill requests that the UA allow licensed concealed carry holders to carry their weapons on university property and within parking garages, which is currently banned by university policy, and the bill also requests that state legislature introduce a bill that would change state law to allow students to carry inside of university buildings as well, Youngblood said.
“Though it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon inside a university building, state law currently permits licensed concealed carry holders to carry their weapons on campus and in parking garages,” Youngblood said. “However, universities can enact policies that ban lawful concealed carry on all of their property, and so the bill asks the UA to rescind this ban because it is misguided and creates an unenforced ‘gun free’ zone that only disarms law abiding citizens.”
ASG Sen. Autumn Lewis is currently writing a resolution in support of the current UA policy that prohibits concealed carry on campus, she said.
“Upon hearing about the legislation introduced by Representative Collins, I knew that the issue would immediately begin being discussed more on our campus,” Lewis said. “I decided to write this legislation to express the opinions of the many students, faculty, staff and administrators who do not support concealed carry on our campus.”
Lewis supports Chancellor G. David Gearhart and other administrator’s decision to have a gun free campus, she said.
“Their leadership on our campus is incredible and I firmly believe that they have the best interest of all students in mind. If the Chancellor does not support such a policy I have difficulty believing it would be beneficial for students,” Lewis said. “Also, both the faculty and staff senates are in the process of writing resolutions in support of the current policy. The two groups on campus who this would most directly affect are against it.”
Youngblood supports concealed carry on campus because it has been proven to be a safe and effective measure throughout the US, he said.
“Over the last 25 years, state laws have changed dramatically on the issue and now 49 out of the 50 states allow some form of concealed carry,” Youngblood said. “In that time, crime has continued to drop dramatically, studies have shown that concealed carry has helped in this and statistics continue to show that concealed carriers are some of the safest and most law abiding citizens.”
In contrast, the presence of groups such as Razorbacks Against Concealed Carry have seen huge surges of support as more students expressed their concern about guns being allowed on campus, Sen. Lewis said.
“As a student who comes from a family of hunters, I think it is important to recognize that many students who oppose concealed carry are not against guns. We simply believe that they should not be allowed on our campus in order to promote a safe learning environment,” Lewis said. “If Ark. were to pass such legislation, we would be joining only five other states in the nation who mandate that campuses must allow concealed carry. The majority of states have recognized that this policy will not lead to safer students.”
As evidenced in his legislation, Youngblood supports that licensed students, not just faculty and staff, also be allowed to conceal carry on campus, he said.
“It is utterly ridiculous that only faculty and staff would be allowed to carry inside of university buildings when they receive the exact same training and certification from the state of Ark. as any other person licensed to carry a concealed weapon,” Youngblood said. “Why should a 45 year old professional be allowed to carry a weapon and not his 26 year old student who is a combat veteran of two wars? I can tell you right now, if something bad was going on, I’d be getting behind the student and not the teacher, and I believe that the vast majority of people feel the same way once the argument is framed in this perspective.”
Shaelyn Vinson, an ASG senator sponsoring Youngblood’s legislation, agreed that she would feel safer with more concealed carriers on campus.
“Not being a concealed carrier myself, I would like knowing that there are trained people surrounding me that if need be, could protect me,” Vinson said. “Police, no matter how effective and great they are, are not always there when a crime is being committed. In a situation that could mean life or death, every second counts.”
Youngblood stressed that this proposal would not affect just any student, he said.
“I want to make it eminently clear that these bills do not allow just any student to carry,” Youngblood said. “The only persons this bill would affect are those persons with a concealed handgun license from the state of Ark.”
Arkansas’ concealed handgun license holders undergo an extensive screening process, including state and federal background checks for both criminal and psychiatric records, attending an 8 hour training course dealing extensively with topics such as conflict resolution and handgun safety, passing a firearm qualification test, demonstrating proficiency with their weapon and being over 21 years of age, among many other requirements, according to Ark. code.
Senators Lewis, Youngblood and Vinson are prepared to argue their cases in senate meetings during the next couple of weeks and encourage students to become more involved in the debate.