LITTLE ROCK — A House committee on Tuesday advanced a bill to allow concealed handguns to be carried at state colleges and universities, the state Capitol, airports, bars and several other places.
Also Tuesday, the Senate advanced a bill to allow workers with concealed-carry permits to leave handguns in their locked vehicles in their employers’ parking lots.
In a voice vote that was not unanimous, the House Judiciary Committee concurred in Senate amendments to House Bill 1249 by Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville. The bill, which passed 18-9 in the Senate last week, goes to the House.
HB 1249 by Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, started out as a bill to require state colleges and universities to allow faculty and staff, but not students, to carry concealed handguns on campus if they have concealed-carry permits, but it has been rewritten by the Senate.
In its current form, the bill would allow anyone age 21 or older who has a concealed-carry permit to complete eight hours of additional training and become authorized to carry a gun at colleges, bars, airports, polling places, athletic events, churches, most state offices and the state Capitol.
It would not allow guns to be carried into courtrooms, K-12 public schools, public pre-kindergarten programs or facilities of the state Department of Correction or the state Department of Community Correction.
A bar or church would be allowed to post a sign prohibiting concealed handguns.
A person with a concealed-carry permit would not be allowed to carry a gun into a building on a college campus where a grievance or disciplinary hearing is being held if notice of the meeting and of handguns being prohibited is posted at each entrance to the building and all participants have had at least 24 hours’ notice of the meeting.
The training course would be developed by the Arkansas State Police. Four of the eight hours of training could be waived if a person has completed the regular training for a concealed-carry permit within the past 10 years.
Collins told the House Judiciary Committee he supports the revamped bill and believes it is a good compromise between people who wanted it to be more restrictive and people who wanted it to be less restrictive.
He said the bill would deter mass shootings.
“This is about saving people’s lives by getting crazies to say, ‘I’m not going to shoot people on an Arkansas campus today,’” he said.
Austin Bailey of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America testified against the bill, saying college students are prone to binge drink, experiment with drugs and struggle with mental health issues. About one in 10 has considered suicide, she said.
“I wonder why we’re considering this legislation that puts our students at risk,” she said.
Brian Morrison of Mountain Home, an advocate of open carry of handguns, also testified against the bill, saying, “What this bill does is put more restrictions on my safety.”
National Rifle Association lobbyist Anthony Roulette testified in support of the bill. He said it would change nothing for concealed-carry permit holders who want to stick with the permits they have now.
“What it does do is it opens up options for individuals who do want to get an enhanced permit,” he said.
The Senate voted 24-7 Tuesday to approve Senate Bill 37 by Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, which would require employers to allow employees who have concealed-carry permits to leave handguns in their locked vehicles in their employers’ parking lots. Employers would not have to allow guns to be left in the vehicles of non-employees.
The bill goes to the House.