Mayor, Chamber also oppose bill to allow concealed weapons on campus

Update: Jan. 31
Despite opposition to the bill, HB1249 cleared the House Judiciary Committee this morning.

Legislators voted 12-5 to advance the bill.

Fayetteville Rep. Greg Leding said on Tuesday he expects the bill to be considered by the full House on Thursday.

The list of local leaders opposing the controversial bill that would require Arkansas colleges to allow more guns on campus has continued to grow this week.

Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce both issued statements condemning House Bill 1249, the legislation that would require universities to allow licensed faculty and staff members to carry concealed weapons on campus.

“As the mayor of a university community, I have a record of commitment to public safety for all our residents, and I would never support or remain silent about public policies that could put our students, faculty, staff, or campus visitors at risk,” Jordan said in a statement released late Tuesday. “The ‘Campus Carry’ act, HB1249, recently introduced to the Arkansas General Assembly causes me great concern.”

Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan / File photo

Jordan added that Fayetteville Police Chief Greg Tabor also has grave concerns about the bill.

“In discussing this matter with Fayetteville’s Police Chief, we believe the ability for the public to carry concealed handguns on campus poses difficult challenges,” Jordan said. “If the Fayetteville Police Department were called to provide assistance in an active threat situation, it must be clear at the scene that firearms are limited to trained and supervised police officers.”

The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce weighed in with worries about the potential economic impact of the controversial bill on Wednesday.

Chamber of Commerce president Steve Clark / File Photo

“The Chamber has become aware of students planning on enrolling at the U of A, but have stated they will not if the bill were to be enacted,” the release stated. “The economic impact of this bill on the business community would be significant if the bill discourages students from enrolling at our University. Fewer students impacts our economy and the loss of local students means we will lose future skilled workers when our region is focusing now on increasing the number of skilled workers moving to our region.

“We believe it is in the best interest of our members and the business community in Fayetteville to oppose the adoption of HB 1249,” it said.

The new opposition to the bill echoes the sentiments of University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmentz, who issued a statement on Tuesday stating the university’s opposition to the bill.

HB 1249 is a revised version of a bill Collins proposed in 2013 that has already passed the legislature that requires universities to allow licensed faculty and staff members to carry concealed weapons on campus unless the universities themselves adopt policies to disallow them.

Collins’ new bill, however, removes the provision allowing universities to opt out, effectively requiring universities to allow “campus carry” despite the belief by the leadership of those universities that the presence of those guns do not create a safer environment for their students. In fact, all 33 eligible universities have adopted policies disallowing campus carry and renewed them every year in response to Collins’ original bill.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said in December that he supports the current law which allows universities to make their own policies regarding guns on campus.

“They have the opportunity to opt out of the campus carry,” Governor Hutchinson said at a news conference Dec. 20. “That’s the law right now and that’s what I think is a very workable arrangement.”

Collins has said he believes increasing the amount of guns on campus will in fact make them safer, serving as a deterrent to those who would seek to carry out shootings or other acts of violence.

“In my view, we have a problem in America where crazy killers go to public places to kill people so that the media gets [the criminal’s] manifesto out there,” Collins told UA student newspaper the Arkansas Traveler last week. “Knowing that someone has a gun will deter crazy killers and help protect our loved ones on campus.”

The bill is expected to be discussed by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Jan. 31. If it is ultimately approved, it would take effect in September 2017.