Rep. Charlie Collins’ to allow concealed weapons on college campuses broke out of a Senate trap and reached the Senate floor today with a new amendment. After some heated debate, the Senate voted 18-9 for the bill, which returns to the House. Here’s the roll call.
A motion to extract the bill from committee, where it had twice failed to win approval, was approved. A majority was required.
The Senate then added an amendment, which you can read here.
The amendment allows people with a concealed carry permit with an endorsement certifying additional training of “up to 8 hours” on a new course to be offered by the State Police to carry that weapon on campus and in public buildings, including buildings on the Capitol grounds. Exceptions include K-12 schools, courtrooms and prison facilities. This would apply to anyone with a concealed carry permit — student, staff, outsider.
The bill expands concealed carry rights to those with the added endorsement into places that sell alcohol, and churches, unless they post prohibitions against guns. The amendment releases from liability anyone who declines to use gun exceptions provided in the law.
The bill was soon called up for debate. The outcome seemed likely to be passage. Sen. Jim Hendren supported it. He’s been the governor’s legislative leader. Collins wrote the amendment, so he’ll backing it when it returns to the House. The NRA endorses it, the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval in Arkansas. Sen. Trent Garner presented the amended bill.
So, more and more, it looks like the pitched battle by every college in Arkansas in this bill not only failed, but opened the door to more guns in more places, including the Capitol, once the new state training program is in place and people start qualifying. From the debate on the bill:
Sen. Jimmy Hickey (R-Texarkana) spoke against the bill, acknowledging that it might cause him a problem with someone scoring votes, a reference to the NRA lobbyist. He said there might be a need for more defense on campus, and earlier versions of the bill to allow armed staff with additional training seemed a good balance. But, he said, “Never in my wildest dreams did I believe we’d allow armed students to sit in classrooms and locker rooms.”
Hendren said he felt better knowing that anyone with the permit would know “the dangers that come with pulling that weapon.”
Sen. Will Bond said the bill was a broad expansion and he said a “big issue” was the failure of the latest bill to include an exception for UAMS, where allowing guns could be an accreditation issue. “We have lost all our common sense on gun issues. It’s time to say this is a step too far.”
Sen. Linda Collins-Smith objected to the “game played” in the weeks of debate on the bill and her failure to get a vote on her even broader “constitutional carry” bill. The bill on the floor has too many restrictions, she said. “If you’re a Republican and you believe in the Constitution, I ask you to vote against this bill because of the mandates and restrictions in this bill.” She said she wanted her name off Collins’ bill.