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story.lead_photo.caption Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, attends a House Education Committee discussion Thursday on his legislation requiring public universities and colleges to allow properly licensed staff members to carry firearms on campus. - Photo by AP / DANNY JOHNSTON

Correction: State Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta, says he spoke with representatives from many state colleges about recent concealed carry legislation, including an amendment he has proposed. None of them indicated support for the amendment, he added. This story about the legislation incorrectly stated that the conversations hadn’t taken place.

A legislative committee approved legislation that would require public universities and colleges to allow staff members with concealed-weapon permits to carry firearms on campus.

Photo by DANNY JOHNSTON / AP
State Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, takes part Thursday in a meeting of the House Committee on Education. The committee backed legislation opened the way for public university staff members to carry concealed weapons on campuses.

An amended version of House Bill 1077, which failed earlier this month in a 10-10 party-line vote, passed out of the House Education Committee on Thursday on a voice vote. The bill now goes to the House floor.

Several Democrats worked with the sponsor, Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, to create an amendment to the bill that they said would make it safer.

"I think we saw how hard Rep. Collins had been pursuing this issue, not just this time but in the past two General Assemblies, and we had a great fear that we were going to lose the opportunity to shape this bill ... and it was still going to come to the floor of the House," said Rep. Michael John Gray, D-Augusta. "And while we had the opportunity, we wanted to shape this bill ... make it a little safer, make it about campus safety, make it about an additional level of training and an additional commitment from the concealed-carry holder themselves."

Gray, along with Rep. Scott Baltz, D-Pocahontas and Rep. James Ratliff, D-Imboden, sponsored the amendment and spoke on its behalf Thursday.

The amendment gives the state's 33 public universities and colleges the ability to require that professors or staff members who want to carry concealed weapons on campus take a training course on dealing with attacks. It also gives the universities the ability to prohibit concealed weapons in day care or child care facilities on campus.

The amendment also lets schools require that their armed staff members have a concealed-carry license issued by the state. Supporters of the amendment said requiring an in-state license, will make sure that the Arkansas State Police is responsible for those staff members' training. It also will let the state police know which staff members are licensed to carry.

Baltz said the active-shooter course made him feel more comfortable than simply requiring the conceal-carry training. But others said the amendment created options where it should have created requirements.

Rep. Warwick Sabin, D-Little Rock, was skeptical of the amendment, noting that it would give schools the option of banning guns from child care facilities and would let them forgo the training courses.

"We're going out of our way to force this policy on our universities," Sabin said. "This amendment was supposed to be a compromise adding these two elements, yet again the only two sections and the most important sections use that term 'may' instead of 'shall.'"

Collins, who has filed similar bills during the past two sessions, said he was not willing to make the shooter training or the child care facility weapons ban mandatory.

"I would assume that the bigger universities are going to require that active-shooter training, but you would have to ask them," he said. "I don't want us to go backwards in terms of what we're allowing from a concealed-carry permit standpoint. I really feel strongly that the state police in Arkansas do a fantastic job in their [concealed-carry] training."

Collins successfully sponsored legislation in 2013 allowing staff members to carry concealed handguns on college and university campuses. But to gain passage, he was forced to amend the legislation and give schools the choice of opting out and banning handguns. All 33 public higher education institutions passed anti-gun policies.

The amendment would require that the training be made available once every three months and would require professors to take an initial 16-hour course and an eight-hour refresher course annually. The training does not have to be offered on campus, but must be made available at a reasonable cost and professors must be given time off to take the course.

Police departments, school resource officers and county sheriff's offices often offer the courses on campuses that are closed to students for a day. The courses role-play what the best response would be in different situations.

The debate Thursday was much shorter than when HB1077 failed in committee a few weeks ago, lasting about 30 minutes instead of several hours. No members of the public signed up to speak for or against the bill Thursday.

Gray said he had not spoken to the universities and colleges that would be affected by the bill, saying their choice to opt out of the 2013 legislation spoke loudly about their feelings. He said he hoped each opted to require the extra level of training.

"The feeling I have is that they would all require it, but there were no specific universities that said they would require it," he said.

Rep. John Walker, D-Little Rock, raised concerns that students and the public would not have any idea who was carrying a weapon on a college campus under Collins' proposal. He asked if the bill would make those staff members who took part in the training or asked for permission to carry a concealed weapon, a matter of public record available under the state's Freedom of Information Act.

Collins said the bill would treat those concealed-carry permit holders on campus the same as those off-campus -- their information would be available to law enforcement officials to coordinate responses, but would not be available to the public.

"The access to the information is for the use of law enforcement in ensuring that we minimize risk, maximize safety and protect our children," Collins said. "But it is not designed to be used for others to be used to make employment decisions or decide which individuals they may or may not be happy with."

Under the proposal, universities within close proximity to an emergency room or to the Clinton Presidential Center would be exempt from the requirement to allow professors to carry weapons. The exemption covers the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as well as the Clinton School of Public Service.

Metro on 02/27/2015

Print Headline: Guns-at-college bill heads to House

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Comments

  • Nodmcm
    February 27, 2015 at 4:34 a.m.

    This law will be an experiment. We will see what happens in Arkansas' colleges and universities over the next ten years. If it prevents a lone gunman from attacking a school, we won't know it. If a gun "goes off" accidentally at a school, and particularly if it wounds or kills, then we will know that, it will be written up in this newspaper. So sadly, we will probably never know how successful this law will be in preventing crime, but we will almost certainly know and be made painfully aware of each and every time there is a gun accident on a campus, and particularly when the accident leads to injury or death. Let's just hope the accidental deaths are worth it, somehow.

  • CFSmith
    February 27, 2015 at 7:24 a.m.

    Agreed.

  • GoBigRed
    February 27, 2015 at 7:43 a.m.

    Nodmcm - Are you saying that it isn't news when someone gets shot or if someone is firing a gun on campus? Do you really think the schools want potential students to know about things like that?

  • Medievalark
    February 27, 2015 at 7:55 a.m.

    The yahoos who push this gun legislation are not people who would have to work in such an armed environment. Those who would have to do this are generally opposed to the idiocy of this proposal. Republicans claim that they oppose the heavy hand of government but that is precisely what they are wielding here by forcing a community that does not want armaments to have to endure their danger in their midst. What hypocrites!

  • hah406
    February 27, 2015 at 8:25 a.m.

    Collins is pushing this bill on behalf of the NRA. That is why he keeps pushing this despite the fact that every single university in the state has voiced opposition to it, and in fact opted out when the first bill passed. This is 100% NRA driven and Collins should admit to that.

  • NoCrossNoCrown
    February 27, 2015 at 9:24 a.m.

    So the cities can't create their own anti-discrination laws, but the state can force universities to allow gun tottin' on campus even when those in charge of security say, "No, we don't NEED this".
    This is what you get when you let the inmates run the asylum......

  • 3rdWorldState
    February 27, 2015 at 9:53 a.m.

    GOP=big government.

  • Morebeer
    February 27, 2015 at 11:11 a.m.

    Where's the bill that allows gun proliferation in the Capitol? What's good for professors and students ought to be good for legislators and state bureaucrats, too. Methinks Rep. Collins is a hypocrite of the first order. As for shootings on campus. There have already been a few. There was the grad student who shot his UA professor, and the UA student who shot off his finger while showing off his .410 handgun (I do not lie, they exist). If only that student's finger had been armed, it might still be intact today.

  • BEARTRAP919
    February 27, 2015 at 12:06 p.m.

    Apparently More Guns make for a Safer Environment. Along with this Expansion of Places Concealed Carry would be Legalized, It appears that Legalized Open Carry would make more Places Safer for the Citizens. The NRA has done it's work well with Republican Rubes from the Southern States

  • finzleft
    March 3, 2015 at 5:04 p.m.

    So a few college professors with weapons will eliminate the risks of school shootings! GREAT idea. Maybe we should let the military know about this. When the Fort Hood shootings occurred, four killed, 16 others wounded, it could all have been prevented if they'd just had a few armed college teachers around. You couldn't expect the armed military all over the base to do it by themselves, if they'd just had a few Arkansas college teachers around, the whole thing would have been quickly ended. How brilliant of our legislators to realize this. Why don't we send a couple over to Syria and see if they can quickly end the war there?

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