Proposal would allow concealed guns on UA campus

Last week, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed legislation to allow concealed weapons in churches.

Next up is a measure that would allow guns on public college campuses.

The House Committee on Education is expected to soon discuss House Bill 1243 that would allow “trained and licensed staff and faculty to carry a concealed handgun” on campuses “under certain circumstances.”

Arkansas law currently states that, “No person in this state shall possess a handgun upon the property of any private institution of higher education or a publicly supported institution of higher education.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Charlie Collins R-Fayetteville, is similar to legislation Collins introduced in 2010 that died in house committee during the 88th General Assembly.

Collins recently told Talk Business he believes his bill will help to curb violence on campuses.

“My goal with this bill is to help us better deter killers from choosing college campuses, filled with our loved ones, as a place to turn into a killing field,” Collins said. “(The bill) will make college campuses safer by deterring bad guys with the presence of responsible, armed good guys. I believe my bill will deter killers from attacking our colleges because if we allow a professor to carry, campuses will no longer be as vulnerable as they are today.”

University of Arkansas professor Sidney Burris, who is circulating an online petition opposing the bill, disagrees with Collins’ logic.

“To allow faculty, staff, and eventually students to carry concealed handguns only strengthens the feelings of degradation, fear, and paranoia that give rise to the very culture of violence that we all work to dismantle in our classrooms every day,” wrote Burris in a statement on Monday. “And it quietly sanctions the notion that we are now authorized by the laws of the land, no less, to respond to violence with violence—a notion that, on a college campus, can only lead us to an unspeakable tragedy.”

The issue has been a hot topic at the UA lately.

Members of the Residents Interhall Congress, a group that develops residence hall policies on campus, last week passed a resolution in support for Collin’s plan, but voted against the idea of allowing weapons for students.

RIC president Onnissia Harries later vetoed the group’s original vote in favor of guns for faculty and staff.

Next week, the UA’s Associated Student Government will vote on three measures dealing with gun control on campus including a bill in support of the maintaining a gun-free campus.

Resolutions adopted by the governing bodies of the UA could be used on the House floor in arguments for or against Collins’ proposed changes to state legislation.

The committee’s next meeting is set for Tuesday, Feb. 12.

Residents can learn more about the bill, and other issues being discussed at the General Assembly at a legislative forum at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8 at the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce.