LITTLE ROCK — A bill to allow faculty and staff of public colleges and universities to carry concealed handguns, with no opt-out option for the schools, cleared a House committee Tuesday.

In a 12-5 vote, the House Judiciary Committee gave a “do pass” recommendation to House Bill 1249 by Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville. The bill goes to the House.

Collins was the sponsor of a 2013 law that allows college faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns on campus if they have concealed-carry permits, with a provision allowing schools to opt out of the law if their governing bodies choose to. Every institution covered by the law has opted out every year since the law was passed.

HB 1249 would eliminate the opt-out option. Collins told the committee the colleges have argued for maintaining local control, but he said his bill is consistent with the principle of local control.

“I would submit to you that the local control argument could go even further in the notion of personal liberty down to the individual concealed-carry holder,” he said.

Collins told the panel his bill would help schools respond to mass shootings and would act as a deterrent to prevent some shootings.

The times that law enforcement agencies take responding to campus emergencies can vary greatly, Collins said. Rep. David Whitaker, D-Fayetteville, said that was an argument for letting each school make its own decision on the issue.

University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt and Arkansas State University System President Chuck Welch both testified against the bill, saying that armed faculty and staff could make dangerous situations worse and that the schools should continue to be allowed to decide whether to allow guns on their campuses.

Steve Gahagans, chief of police at UA’s flagship campus in Fayetteville, testified that it can be difficult for police officers to know who is good and who is bad when they respond to a scene where multiple people have guns.


“I think we all can understand more guns would equal higher risk, and sometimes a higher risk for those that are individuals that should not be at the end of a bullet,” Gahagans said.


Collins’ bill would not allow guns to be carried at a child-care facility on campus and includes exemptions for the Clinton School of Public Service and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.