The ink is barely dry on a new law that will allow some concealed-carry permit holders to take their guns into many public places, and yet a bill that shot through the Senate on Thursday proposes to exempt some locations.
Under Senate Bill 724, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, the State Hospital and locations hosting collegiate athletic events would be exempt from the new law.
The Senate voted 22-8 to approve SB724 by Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, on Thursday afternoon. Senators had already approved the bill earlier in the day, by a vote of 22-10, but then amended it and approved it a second time.
The bill now goes to the House.
On Wednesday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law House Bill 1249 by Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, that will allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry firearms on college campuses and in many other public buildings, including the state Capitol. But to do so, permit holders must receive up to eight hours of what Hutchinson called "enhanced training."
HB1249 is now Act 562 and will become effective Sept. 1. The new law will require the Arkansas State Police to develop rules to design a firearm training program within 120 days of that effective date. More than 220,000 Arkansans have concealed-carry permits, and state police Director Bill Bryant said he's not sure how many of them will seek the extra training.
Hutchinson said Thursday that "the unique environment of a teaching hospital makes it reasonable to exempt UAMS, and the other exception for college sporting events addresses the concerns expressed by many Arkansans.
"Because these appear to be reasonable exceptions, I will support these amendments," the Republican governor said in a written statement.
But the National Rifle Association "adamantly opposes Senate Bill 724," NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said.
"People have a constitutional right to self-defense wherever they are legally allowed to be," he said in a written statement.
Collins said Thursday afternoon that he wants to take a look at the language of SB724 and Act 562, and he wants to review other issues, such as whether the concealed-weapon permit holders with extra training would be banned from publicly owned day cares, nursing schools and "carrying while intoxicated."
He said he wants to get more information about SB724's ban on concealed weapons at intercollegiate athletic events.
"I appreciate what they are trying to do," Collins said. "But we have to think about this together and it requires us to be surefooted."
SB724 would exempt the weapons allowed under Act 562 from a place owned by, operated by, administered by or associated in a clinical setting with a public teaching hospital; a place that is hosting or being used for a collegiate athletic event; or the premises of the State Hospital in Little Rock.
A public teaching hospital includes the premises and buildings of UAMS under the legislation.
Dismang said in an interview that Act 562 "has the potential to impact recruiting" at UAMS "and obviously would have an impact with a physician/patient relationship.
"When I read the bill, I recognized that for the most part hospitals are exempted, but there was no exemption for UAMS," he said. The State Hospital is located near UAMS, he said.
UAMS supports SB724 because "there is a concern about concealed weapons being allowed in an environment of high stress, high traffic and high emotions in the various departments all of which are uninterruptedly connected to one another including internal access to the Federal Veterans Administration Hospital," said UAMS spokesman Pam Collar in a statement.
The bill would define a collegiate athletic event as "a sporting or athletic contest, event or practice of an individual or a team of individuals in which one or more individuals or a team of individuals sponsored by, funded by, represented by and associated with a public or private university, college or community college competes against itself or another individual or team of individuals sponsored by, funded by, represented by or associated with a public or private university, college or community college."
Senate Republican leader Jim Hendren of Sulphur Springs said that he proposed the amendment that would exempt sites of intercollegiate athletics because "anytime you pass a bill as comprehensive as [HB] 1249 was, there is going to be things that you didn't think" about.
"We gotta realize we completely rewrote that bill here in about two days in really intensive negotiations between NRA, and ourselves and the bill's sponsors," he said.
"The day after I had an agreement, I had four people come up to me and say can we change this, can we change this, can we change that," Hendren said. "I said, 'We can't now. But we may look at subsequent legislation to fix some of those things. So that's what you see happening."
Dismang said, "Multiple members have concerns about the sporting events and what that would do in regards to NCAA, SEC [Southeastern Conference], fundraising and a number of different issues, even outside of just safety alone.
Asked if the concern was that Arkansas' universities wouldn't been able to host events, "there is nothing in stone that says that would be a result, but I think that is a concern that's shared," he said.
SB724 also would ax the requirement for particular notices to be posted by a private university or private college that adopts a policy expressly disallowing the carrying of a concealed handgun in the buildings and grounds of the school.
"It would allow them to dictate their own posting guidelines for the campus. No. 1, they have the right to opt in or opt out," he said.
Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, said in an interview that he strongly disagrees with SB724 because the legislation would limit the ability of people to carry concealed weapons in certain places even if they had up to eight hours of training under Act 562.
During the Senate's debate on the initial version of SB724 before it was amended, Garner said, "It will kill the campus-carry bill we just passed" based on its wording.
"I think we gave them the perfect loophole for every college and every community college to get out," he said. "I know that Sen. Dismang did not mean to do it."
There have been "over a dozen killings" at athletic events during the past 10 years, he said.
In response, Dismang said that he intended his bill to exempt UAMS and not other public colleges and universities from Act 562, and, if any amendment is needed for the bill, he would fix it.
"I'm not going to grandstand on the bill," he told senators.
A Section on 03/24/2017
Print Headline: Senate OKs concealed-carry limits; Bans proposed for State Hospital, UAMS, collegiate sports