The Arkansas House of Representatives will vote on a bill that would allow guns on university campuses later this week after lawmakers passed the bill through a legislative committee.
Representatives in the House judiciary committee approved House Bill 1249 in a 12-5 vote Tuesday afternoon.
State Rep. Charlie Collins (R) is the lead sponsor of the bill, which would require Arkansas universities to allow faculty and staff members to carry guns on campus, according to the bill.
The current law, which Collins wrote in 2013, allows Arkansas universities to choose whether to allow guns on their campuses, and all Arkansas universities decided not to permit guns on their campuses.
Collins expects the house to vote on HB1249 Thursday or Friday, he said. If the house passes the bill, it will then go to the Arkansas Senate, and senators will vote on the bill as well. If the senate passes the bill, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) will have to sign the bill before it becomes a law.
Under the bill, university faculty and staff members who want to carry guns would have to obtain an Arkansas Concealed Handgun Carry License.
The bill prohibits students from carrying weapons. It also specifies that concealed-carry holders would not be able to store weapons in dorm rooms or take their guns into athletic stadiums or daycare centers on campus.
The bill also allows universities to bar handguns during special events or grievance and disciplinary meetings if they give their employees 24-hour notice.
“My goal is protecting our loved ones on college campuses,” Collins said.
Collins, who has two children who attend Arkansas universities, said he thinks that allowing staff and faculty members to carry guns on campus could prevent people from being killed in active-shooter situations.
During the committee meeting, Donald Bobbitt, the president of the UA System, spoke against the bill, maintaining that UA System universities are protected by police departments in their area and on their campuses.
UA Police Department Director Steve Gahagans also spoke at the meeting in opposition to the bill. Gahagans said he thinks that concealed-carry holders do not have enough training to be helpful during active-shooter situations.
“I think we can all understand, more guns equal higher risks,” Gahagans said.
During the shooting on the UA campus in 2001, UAPD officers were able to arrive at Kimpel Hall, the scene of the shooting, in 45 seconds, Gahagans said. Gahagans maintained that UAPD officers can arrive at dangerous situations on campus within two minutes and that police officers are the best people to handle these events.
Charles Welch, the president of the Arkansas State University System, and Coy Grace, the president of East Arkansas Community College, also spoke at the committee meeting and said they do not want guns on their university campuses.
Blake Robertson, the president of the Northwest Technical Institute, would like to be able to choose to let faculty and staff members carry guns at the Northwest Technical Institute because the institution does not have a police department on campus, and the closest police department is 15 minutes away. Robertson spoke in favor of HB 1249.
Because each campus has different circumstances, Rep. David Whitaker (D) argued to keep the law as it is. He said he thinks the boards of trustees at the various universities are the most qualified to decide if they should allow guns on their campuses.
“It’s how it is now, and I believe it’s how it should stay,” Whitaker said.