LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Concealed carry license holders will soon be allowed to take their guns onto college campuses, bars, churches, sporting events, and even state buildings.
Governor Asa Hutchinson signed House Bill 1249, the so-called "campus carry" into law on Wednesday. The bill was signed as is which came as a shock to some who expected changes to fix some language in the bill.
The proposed bill, which will soon become law, comes after a lot of deliberation and even more push back from Moms Demand Actions, colleges, and even some Arkansas police officers.
"We've really worked out a compromised piece of legislation that is consistent with my view of how firearms should be handled in sensitive areas,” Hutchinson explained.
During the press conference, Hutchinson clarified that there are places that concealed carry holders will still not be able to take their guns.
When asked if he would consider hearings at the Department of Human Services or some of the heated hearing at the Capitol as "sensitive areas" he said those would be similar to a court proceeding. Under those guideline, guns would not be allowed into that certain area.
"So, there are those exceptions," the governor said. "I think this would actually be well-received. In terms of the other areas, are they sensitive areas? They are subject to the enhanced carry."
Hutchinson also said that under the new "enhanced training" proposed in the bill, people would still be subject to the same mental health evaluations as previous laws dictate.
Arkansas' law enforcement will have to be completely retrained on active shootings. Colonel Bill Bryant with the Arkansas State Police said they already have what they call "alert training" and certified instructors will have to teach officers on how to address active shooters in this new environment.
Another question raised during the press conference was what happens if you've got a campus within a campus? For instance, eStem has been building a high school on the UA Little Rock Campus.
But Representative Charlie Collins, the bill's sponsor, said eStem would be exempt for this "campus carry" law.
“If you were to say there's a high school in a mall, the high school inside the mall is exempt, the mall is not," Collins explained.
The bill started as only allowing a handful of college professors to carry on Arkansas' campuses has now blossomed to include state buildings, government facilities, sporting events, and even private businesses.
"I'm fine with this much bigger bill," Collins admitted. "I think that this is a better bill. So, I'm proud of where we landed together."
Opponents of the bill aren't so comfortable with the expansion of the proposed law.
"This is about the people who are going to be affected by this law being clearly opposed to it," said Rep. Greg Leding, an outspoken critic of HB1249. "I represent them. The University of Arkansas campus is in my district. They were adamant this is something they don't want."
When Hutchinson was asked if this would allow guns inside sporting events such as Arkansas Razorbacks football games, he did little to ease the fears of those concerned about it.
“You would be able to carry a concealed weapon into an Arkansas Razorbacks game," he said during the press conference.
Currently, there are amendments to the bill in the works that would possibly keep guns out of sporting events, and to also exempt UAMS from the "campus carry" law.
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