One day after threatening to pull one of the session’s most controversial bills out of committee and send it straight to the Senate floor, lawmakers made good on that promise and approved a heavily-amended measure that will allow concealed carry permit-holders to carry a weapon at state colleges and universities.
House Bill 1249, sponsored by Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, will now go back to the House where he will finally get to put to rest legislation he has carried for nearly five years. On late Thursday afternoon, a motion to extract HB1249 straight out of committee passed on the Senate floor and then rules were suspended to add the bill’s seventh amendment, which removed several restrictions on concealed carry in Arkansas and expanded the rights of gun owners to carry a weapon to a long list of public places.
On the training end, any licensee who intends to carry a concealed handgun at a public or state-supported university, including students, faculty or visitors, will be required to complete a training course approved by the director of the Arkansas State Police. The training requirement consists of up to 8 hours of course instruction at a nominal cost.
Notably, any permit-holders with the training endorsement could carry a weapon in public buildings, including any buildings on the Capitol grounds. They can also carry a weapon in places of worship and bars, unless those establishments post a notice prohibiting guns at those locations.
The agreed upon exceptions include courtrooms and administrative hearings, K-12 public schools, and state prison facilities. The bill also removes certain requirements in an earlier amendment that would allow any permit holder 25 years or older to carry a weapon on campus after undergoing 16 hours of active shooter training.
After nearly an hour of debate over the particulars of the amendment, the measure was approved by a vote of 18-9, with four members not voting and three members present. The bill, which was endorsed by Collins, was re-referred back to the House Judiciary Committee. It was approved overwhelmingly by the House more than a month ago by a vote of 71-22.
One notable Republican lawmaker who did not vote for the bill was Sen. Linda Collins-Smith of Pocahontas, who had proposed a competing bill titled “The True Campus Carry Act” that would essentially remove all the restrictions and make Arkansas a fully open carry state.