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Ever since the Central High School integration crisis in 1957, the image of public education in Arkansas in the national consciousness has ... not been one associated with progressive best-practices, but Arkansas public schools did turn out a president and a number of world class artists and scientists. Today, though, the state ranks near the bottom of most indexes of student achievement.

Under The Gun: Arkansas Colleges Hammer Out Concealed-Carry Rules Ahead Of Fall Classes

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Jacqueline Froelich
/
Arkansas Public Media

Arkansas university and college administrators and faculty have been busy this summer drafting new policies to accommodate a new state law allowing concealed weapons on campuses this coming school year. Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, with an enrollment of 12,000 last semester, formed a special task force in April to consider the change. 

Teresa Taylor is the interim executive director of Institutional Policy, Risk Management and Compliance for the college.

“We held very open public town hall meeting forums to explain the laws that exist already, and what that means for our campus,” she says.

Currently, anyone caught carrying a firearm on the campus of Northwest Arkansas Community College faces expulsion or termination. That long-standing rule is changing with the passage of Act 562 by Arkansas lawmakers last spring, which allows individuals 21 years or older who possess concealed-gun permits and have undergone required training to carry their weapons on public college campuses.  

The draft policy covers an array of issues, from the acquisition and holding of necessary permits to which weapons are allowed and which remain banned. The policy considers what signage is appropriate and outlines the consequences for revealing a gun on campus and enforcement measures.        

The policy will also explain where guns are not allowed, including college residence halls, day care facilities, teaching hospitals and sporting events.

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Credit Jacqueline Froelich / Arkansas Public Media
Northwest Arkansas Community College Campus Carry Task Force meeting, held June 27, issued a final draft policy which is under review by the college leadership.

Northwest Arkansas Community College police officer Cecil White serves on the conceal carry task force. He says gun concealment can vary.

“It can be under your coat, under your shirt. It just has to be concealed. It can be in a backpack, but the backpack has to be in close proximity to you, or a purse in close proximity to you.”

White says only automatic handguns and revolvers will be permitted.

The college has no plans to install metal detectors at entrances, but the campus police force is undergoing special training to manage concealed-carry incidents.

The University of Arkansas System provided initial guidance to its six universities, seven community colleges, and seven educational units, which are developing internal policies as well.

The new law goes into effect September 1.

This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media, a statewide journalism collaboration among public media organizations. Arkansas Public Media reporting is funded in part through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the support of partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK and from members of the public. You can learn more and support Arkansas Public Media’s reporting at arkansaspublicmedia.org. Arkansas Public Media is Natural State news with context.

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