After an emotional debate, the Arkansas Senate sent to the governor a bill that bans concealed firearms at college sporting events.
Senate Bill 724, sponsored by Senate Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, bans concealed carry permit holders from carrying firearms into college athletic events, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and the Arkansas State Hospital, an inpatient psychiatric hospital.
The legislation also expands the K-12 definition of prohibited concealed carry locations to include public daycare facilities. It also allows private entities to post a “no guns allowed” sign or provide a written or verbal notice for a licensee not to bring a handgun into a prohibited location.
The House had amended that bill to allow the Arkansas State Police to approve “firearm-sensitive” areas. The Senate voted to concur with that amendment on a voice vote and then voted for the bill. It passed 23-7, with 5 not voting. Kendall Marr, a spokesperson with Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s office, said the governor will sign the bill.
Last week, Gov. Hutchinson signed Act 562 of 2017, which will allow concealed carry permit holders with enhanced training to carry firearms onto college campuses and onto an expanded list of public places.
During the Senate debate, Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, said carrying a weapon is a “God-given right given to us by our existence on earth by our Creator” that is included in both the United States and Arkansas Constitutions.
“Sometimes there are just bad people who want to do bad things to you,” he said. “Unless law-abiding citizens can protect themselves, unless they have that right, that ability, they will never, they will never get that bad person to stop unless sometimes you stop them yourself.”
That prompted Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, to ask if Garner would support the carrying of weapons onto a commercial aircraft. Garner said he would not because of the possibility of an accidental discharge because of pressure changes. Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Little Rock, spoke for the bill, saying that with the passage of Act 562, Arkansas had already created “the most expansive increase in gun rights in the history of the Arkansas General Assembly.”
Sen. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, closed the debate emotionally. Her voice rising to a shout, she said her sister had been killed with a gun while at college and said people are being “gunned down” at schools.
“From where I’m from, the God I serve does not tell me that I have a fundamental right to carry a gun. … The God I serve is a God of love,” she said.
The Senate also voted for House Bill 1895 by Rep. Mickey Gates, R-Hot Springs, allowing state employees with concealed carry permits who work at county courthouses to carry their firearms into those courthouses. County employees already have that ability under the law. The bill passed 24-5 with 6 not voting.