State lawmakers took a step toward enhanced concealed carry on college campuses Friday in spite of some pushback from firearm trainers who don’t want to be required to teach the new class for compensation they say is too low.
State Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) was among the majority of lawmakers who voted to approve the plan anyway.
“You know, when this is done, there will be less gun-free zones which are soft targets in Arkansas. There will be more people, carrying in more places, being able to protect themselves and others in more places when this rule is implemented. That’s called liberty,” he said at Friday’s legislative council meeting.
Arkansas’s new law allows anyone to carry a concealed firearm on college campuses provided they get a so-called "enhanced" concealed carry permit. To do that, people must successfully complete a new eight-hour training class designed by the state police.
Gun safety trainers around the state have to offer the class to operate, and they’ve been complaining about that.
Ballinger and others say they will push during the fiscal session next year to loosen the requirement that all trainers offer the enhanced class.
State Senator Joyce Elliott was among a small number of mostly democratic lawmakers who object to the law.
“We’re just off the anniversary of Sandy Hook, and we are just off the awful shootings in Las Vegas and you can keep going back and back to Sutherland Springs, Texas. And I think those three examples alone should give us pause,” said Elliott.
Elliott also opposed allowing guns in dorm rooms. Storing firearms in a dorm room is prohibited in the law, but Mary Claire McLaurin, staff attorney for the state police, says practically speaking, guns in dorms must be allowed.
“If the firearm is within arm's reach, it’s not unattended. It’s on or about your person. It’s readily accessible for use,” then it cuts the muster, she said.
The state police has another two weeks to finalize their draft rules. Arkansans will be able to get the campus carry permit as soon as the training course is available.
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