Arkansas voters largely support faculty and staff to carry guns on college campuses, but they are split on university officials making the local decision to allow them.
Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, has advanced legislation, HB 1249, to the Senate floor that would require the state’s public colleges and universities to allow concealed carried weapons by faculty and staff. The bill would eliminate an opt out provision contained in legislation passed in 2013. Under the current law, public higher education institutions could allow their staff members to carry a weapon, but they also could opt out of allowing them to do so. All of the state’s colleges and universities opted out.
A new Talk Business & Politics-Hendrix College survey of 440 Arkansans shows that 61% support concealed carry by staff on college campuses, but by a 40-38% margin they feel boards of trustees should make the call. Twenty-two percent (22%) were undecided. The statewide poll was taken on Tuesday, Feb. 14 and has a margin of error of 4.5%. Voters were asked:
Q: Do you support or oppose legislation that would allow college staff members who are concealed carry gun owners to possess their firearms on campuses?
5% Don’t know
Q: Should college boards have the final say in whether to allow or restrict staff members who are concealed carry gun owners from possessing their firearms on campus?
22% Don’t know
These poll results are part of a larger survey that will be released over the next several days. Additional poll questions include the topics of President Trump’s travel ban, medical marijuana, separating the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert E. Lee holidays, and job approval numbers for Trump and Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
Dr. Jay Barth, professor of political science at Hendrix College, helped craft and analyze the latest poll. He offered this analysis of the poll results:
Showing their general support for gun rights, Arkansans favor the right of college and university staff members with conceal carry licenses to be able to carry on campuses across the state. However, a plurality of those same Arkansans favor giving campus leaders the final call on policies on their individual campuses — the focus of HB 1249. Support for conceal carry on campuses is strong across most — but not all — demographic and political groups in the state. While older voters are more wary of conceal carry on campuses, it is favored by all age groups. Nearly two-thirds of white Arkansans favor the practice on college campuses; non-white Arkansans are more cautious with 46% of African-Americans — a plurality of the group — opposing gun rights in that forum.
The issue does split parties with 80% of Republicans favoring conceal carry, 60% of Democrats opposing the practice on campuses, and a slight majority (55%) of independents favoring. The practice is most popular in the rural 4th Congressional District (south Arkansas) and least popular in the 3rd Congressional District, home to the University of Arkansas. Finally, there is little variation between men and women. On whether campus leaders or state law should determine the policy on conceal carry, some new fault lines show themselves. For instance, white voters — most likely to support conceal carry — are also the group most likely to give campus leaders the power to determine their own policies. Democrats and Republicans vary little on this issue, with both groups favoring local control on the issue, while a slight majority of independents oppose giving that power to campus leaders.
A significant gender gap shows itself on the issue with a plurality of women more likely to favor giving campus board members the final decision making power and a plurality of men opposing the current “opt-out” policy. In short, clarity is in short supply on the issue of who should be the final decision maker on gun policy on Arkansas’s college campuses.
This survey was conducted on Tuesday, February 14, 2017. The poll, which has a margin of error of +/-4.5%, was completed using IVR survey technology among 440 Arkansas frequent voters statewide.
All media outlets are welcome to reprint, reproduce, or rebroadcast information from this poll with proper attribution to Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College.