LITTLE ROCK — A bill to allow faculty and staff of public colleges and universities to carry guns on campus was amended on the Senate floor Thursday to add a training requirement.
Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, first attempted to amend House Bill 1249 in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, but the committee, which he chairs, advanced the bill without a training requirement. Hutchinson again proposed the amendment on the Senate floor Thursday, and the Senate adopted it in a 22-10 vote.
The Senate has not yet voted on the bill.
Under Hutchinson’s amendment, a faculty or staff member at a public college or university who has a concealed-carry permit and wants to carry a gun on campus would have to complete 16 hours of active-shooter training every five years, at his or her own expense. The Arkansas State Police would be required to provide the training.
A 2013 state law allows college faculty and staff to carry guns on campus if they have concealed-carry permits, but it also allows the governing bodies of the institutions to opt out, and every school has done so since the law was passed. HB 1249 would eliminate the opt-out provision.
Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, the sponsor of the 2013 law and HB 1249, has said eliminating the opt-out provision would make campuses safer from mass shooters. He has said he opposes a training requirement because people already receive training to obtain a concealed-carry permit and he believes requiring more training would reduce the number of people willing to carry guns on campus.
Hutchinson said on the Senate floor Thursday that active-shooter training is not required to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun. He said 16 hours of active-shooter training would not make anyone an expert, but it would be better than none.
Later Thursday, Collins successfully pushed in the House to block a Senate bill to appropriate General Improvement Fund money for capital improvement projects at state colleges and universities.
Speaking against Senate Bill 314 by the Joint Budget Committee, Collins said, “In the Senate it looks like today we just added an amendment to another bill that the colleges may be requiring people to get dozens and dozens of hours of gun training, and I think we need to get that resolved how much money it’s going to take for that before we start allocating money in other places.”
SB 314 failed in a 55-33 vote, falling short of the 75 votes needed for passage.
Also Thursday, Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, a co-sponsor of HB 1249, said he planned to propose an amendment to the bill that would allow anyone with a concealed-carry permit — including a college student age 21 or older — to receive active-shooter training and qualify to carry a concealed handgun on campus, whether working there, attending class or visiting.
“If they want to put that requirement on there, the 16 hours of intense, out-of-pocket expenses, we have to let every Arkansan who wants to go on a college campus be able to participate in that,” Garner said. “We can’t create a special class where some people are able to get a special (concealed-carry) license. We have to open it up to everybody who can get a CCL license over the age of 21.”
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Jeremy Hutchinson’s uncle, said Thursday he has a history of supporting the availability of firearms on campus in the hands of people who are “properly trained” and that he has favored letting schools decide what to allow.
“Depending on what happens in the Senate, I want to have an opportunity to talk further with Rep. Collins as well as the higher education officials that have expressed some concern” about HB 1249, the governor said. “There’s hopefully a willingness to address some of my concerns for coordination and training with the law enforcement that’s already on the campus.”