Two months following its introduction into the state legislature, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed House Bill 1249 into law, which will allow concealed-firearm licensees to carry firearms in more areas, including universities.
Effective starting Sept. 1, HB 1249, which is now known as Act 562, prohibits concealed firearms in public K-12 schools, any facility operated by the Department of Corrections and courtrooms. However, it will expand carrying privileges to publicly owned property such as community and state universities, city parks, airports, public libraries or athletic fields.
The act does not allow concealed carry holders to store weapons in dorm rooms.
The act also allows concealed carry holders to bring guns into sporting events, like Razorback football games. But State Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R) filed Senate Bill 724 on March 6. The bill would prevent concealed carry holders from doing so. The state senate passed the bill March 23 and sent SB 724 to the house for further review.
To bring guns on university property, concealed carry holders will be required to take an additional eight hour training course approved by the director of the Arkansas State Police.
Exceptions will include churches, private colleges and establishments that sell alcohol but only if officials from these establishments decide to post a written notice on their property stating their opposition to the presence of concealed firearms.
University officials emphasized that despite what anyone’s personal position on the issue may be, the university is committed to following the provisions of the new law and will make the necessary changes to university policy as quickly as possible.
“The chancellor's position has not changed on the gun bill, but the university will, of course, follow the new law and will do everything to implement the changes as efficiently and expediently as possible and communicate to our community in a timely fashion,” according to a statement released from the chancellor’s office. “We cannot create policies to go against the law. We anticipate guidance from the UA System office in Little Rock as well.”
Steve Voorhies, the UA manager of Media Relations, echoed the sentiment and said that this is now something that the university will need to adapt to.
“At this point, about all we can say regarding the campus carry law is that we will work collaboratively with the UA System as it establishes policies, guidelines and practices that align with the law as it affects our campus and all the schools in the system,” Voorhies said.
Students will be able to access information portals around campus, designed to answer their questions about the new law, as well as information about other pertinent issues that students and faculty may need to know about in the future.
The work for these information portals has already begun, and they will be placed around campus for the purpose of answering questions to various issues that may be taking place around campus but also to share policies and newly developed rules with students and faculty as they are created or soon afterwards. However, that will not be able to be completed until the media department receives guidance from the university’s Board of Trustees, Voorhies said.
Sydney Combs, the president of the UA College Republicans, said she was excited the bill passed.
“I am extremely pleased at the passing of HB 1249,” Combs said. “I think Arkansans want to feel safe and protected whether that be at church, school, etc. This law will really allow for people to feel more secure.”
Combs appreciated the number of people who worked to pass HB 1249.
“I have also been encouraged by the fact that many lawmakers and groups worked on this bill together to shape it into something that generally more people agreed on with provisions added that made people feel more at ease about the law. I believe this is a very positive and big step for Arkansas at large and especially college students in the state,” Combs said.
A previous version of this article previously stated that Act 562 prohibited concealed carry holders from bringing guns into dorm rooms. It has been corrected to state that Act 562 prohibits concealed carry holders from storing guns in dorm rooms.
The Traveler strives for accuracy and clarity in all matters.