Saying that support for his proposal had eroded the night before, a state representative on Tuesday stopped pushing his bill that would broaden where guns would be allowed.
House Bill 1694, to "eliminate gun-free zones," was alternately described as the "guns everywhere" bill by opponents, including the advocacy group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
The sponsor of HB1694, Rep. Richard Womack, R-Arkadelphia, said two committee members whose support he had expected told him Monday night that they would not.
Womack declined to name the lawmakers.
"There was no point in putting the [House Judiciary Committee] through probably an hours-long process to not have the votes," Womack told reporters after he had HB1694 placed on a list of deferred bills.
Womack said he will not attempt to resurrect the bill unless he has the votes to get it out of committee.
A spokesman for Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that the governor does not support the bill "in its current form."
The bill would have allowed adults to carry concealed handguns into schools and public buildings and onto college campuses with or without an "enhanced" permit that the Legislature voted to require in 2017. The bill also would have clarified that citizens can openly carry weapons on the streets, which state leaders -- including Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge -- argue is now allowed.
More than 40 people had signed up to speak against the bill at a public hearing scheduled for Tuesday. A group of about 15 public school teachers, out on spring break, also attended the meeting in a show of opposition, according to Mika Bishop, the state events leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
"Relieved," Bishop said when asked how she felt about the bill placed on the deferred list.
Other groups that had signed up to oppose the bill included associations representing prosecutors, sheriffs, police chiefs, school counselors and educators. The University of Central Arkansas campus police chief, the Arkansas State Police director, a school board president and representatives from the State Fair and Verizon Arena had also signed up to speak against the bill.
Only one person signed up to speak for the bill: Paul Calvert, a citizen of Faulkner County who is a regular presence at committee meetings.
Police and college officials opposed legislation in 2017 that allowed people with extra training -- granting them an enhanced permit -- to take concealed weapons onto campuses and public buildings. After Act 562 was enacted, lawmakers had to quickly approve another bill with exemptions for sporting events and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, after officials at the hospital and several college athletic conferences raised concerns.
House Bill 1694 would have continued exemptions for college athletic events and UAMS, and Womack said Tuesday he was not trying to stir up the same debate that occurred in 2017.
"We kind of found the line of how far we could push the state's rights in protecting our individuals," Womack said. "I just want to get us to that line."
A Section on 03/20/2019
Print Headline: Arkansas lawmaker drops push for end of gun-free zones