As you know, your support of our petition against HB 1243 forced Representative Collins into an amendment that allows the Board of Trustees of public institutions of higher education in Arkansas to “opt out” of concealed carry every year. The amended bill passed the House of Representatives last week, and will come up for a vote in the Senate this week.
While we are happy that we forced a modification of the bill, we would be much happier if it were to fail in the Senate.
If the bill passes through the Senate, then our long-term focus shifts to the Board—the Governor appoints our Board members, and with a gubernatorial election on the horizon in 2014, a Governor who supported concealed carry would have an opportunity to empanel gradually a Board that could ultimately vote to arm our campuses.
The current bill is riddled with problems, and we would like to see it defeated or tabled for the current session. As the bill is written, the following issues remain dangerously unresolved:
- Exclusionary Zones—There is no language in this bill that stipulates places on campus where guns, even if concealed carry were allowed, would be prohibited: dorms, K-12 programs like Upward Bound, infant development centers, medical clinics, and psychological services offices, to name a few. Policies of this sort must be clarified, or we risk potentially deadly confusion.
- Students' Rights—If students wished to take a section of a class taught by a non-carrying faculty member, they should have that right. Our student government has voted against concealed carry on our campus, and this would surely be one of their concerns. The current bill mentions nothing along these lines, and in fact there is sentiment in the legislature for making the concealed-carry licenses private information, even though they are awarded by the state.
- Faculty and Staff Classification—A full-time staff member—who could carry a concealed weapon if the Board failed to opt out of the current law as described by this bill—can also be a part-time student—who can't carry under this legislation. The bill does not address this issue as well, and will only lead to the kind of confusion that potentially ends in tragedy.
- Concealed Carry Training—While the training required of those that our society has entrusted with the protecting of our lives—firefighters, police, doctors, nurses, EMT personnel—is measured in years, the time required to obtain a concealed-carry license is measured in hours. And the solution offered by several legislators—to engage our universities in remedying this shortfall by teaching classes in marksmanship and security training—points to another weakness of the bill. Why pass legislation that requires, upon passing, additional expenses to strengthen it? Besides—does anyone honestly feel that universities and colleges ought to go into the security business?
Conservative Republicans, of course, made historic gains in the General Assembly during the last election, and they will focus their resources on the Governorship in 2014 as well.
So we are asking that you email the Republicans on the Senate Education Committee that will consider the bill before it goes to the Senate for a final vote. Follow this action link—it takes only a moment—and make your voice heard.
Thank you for your support.