Guns now allowed in dorms under campus carry law, wording debated at capitol

As it is written, the campus carry law has some strange and unintended effects.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) — Once again, guns are a primary focus at the Arkansas State Capitol. Questions and disagreements about aspects of the new enhanced carry law are back on the docket.

Language is the main concern legislators and many members of the public have had with the enhanced carry gun law since it was passed last spring.

The fiscal session began Monday, making it the first time legislators have been under one roof to hash out the details.

There's a chance though, that chance may not come.

"From my standpoint, there's some urgency to get this done,” Republican State Representative Bob Ballinger said Tuesday.

For many on the right, their main concern over Arkansas' enhanced carry law, is the requirement that all concealed carry instructors must also teach the enhanced carry classes.

"The concealed carry Instructors only have six months that they can keep their permit, without renewing and getting their permit to teach the enhanced carry,” he said.

To protect the rights of concealed carry instructors Ballinger said he filed HR-1006. Which would make it so only those who want to teach enhanced carry would have to do so.

"The bill really is just clean-up. Even the Democrats shouldn't oppose it,” Ballinger said. But the bill had unintended consequences. More proposed changes were filed.

"I think the fiscal session should be limited to budget items,” State Representative Greg Leding said. “But if we are going to crack this thing open to mop up some of the mess made by Act 562, I think the dorm issue is one we absolutely must address."

He and State Senator Will Bond, both Democrats, also proposed legislation regarding the gun law. Theirs tackles another heated aspect, the ability for students to have guns in dorms.

"We've ended up in a situation where guns are now allowed in dorms, but the gun owners can't store them there. And that creates a lot of ridiculous situations,” Leding said.

Say, for example, an enhanced carry permit holder is living in the dorm and needs to use the restroom in the middle of the night, or needs to go down the hall to use the community showers. The way the law is written right now, they would have to take the gun with them each and every time, otherwise, they'd be breaking the law.

We've heard a lot from the legislators debating the law, but not much from the students impacted. I went to the UA-Little Rock Campus to get their take.

"I would say you don't really need to have guns in the dorms because that's honestly what campus police are for. I'd say it's okay to have a gun if you live off-campus. That's fine. I really just don't see a need to have guns on campus,” freshman Kim Boni said.

"I believe there are proper ways to maintain it but people will take advantage of it in a sense. They might get lazy. They would probably leave the gun out sometimes. We could have incidents where we are having guests over and simply just playing around and have an incident,” echoed Calvin James, a Junior.

Because both bills are considered "non-appropriations", they don't have to be heard in the fiscal session. 

Multiple “non-appropriations” bills have been filed. There’s a chance they could all, some, or none be held for a special session or legislative session.

Until then, concealed carry instructors are required to teach both, and students are allowed to have guns in dorm rooms.

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