UA prepares for guns on campus in 2017

UA Chancellor Joseph SteinmetzCourtesy, University of Arkansas

The University of Arkansas is preparing for life with more guns on campus.

After the passage of Acts 562 and 859, new laws that require public universities in Arkansas to allow individuals over 21 years old to carry handguns on college campuses throughout the state, UA officials are taking steps to attempt to maintain a safe environment in Fayetteville.

UA Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz last week sent an email to faculty, staff, and students at the UA outlining some of the measures his administration is taking in advance of the implementation of the new laws, which will take effect on Sept. 1 2017.

According to the email, the university system office has already provided some guidance on what the laws mean for UA students in a April 21 document, and UA officials are working to develop a website that will house information specific to the new legislation.

Steinmetz is urging members of the campus community who have questions about how the legislation will affect life on campus to send their inquiries to [email protected].

The campus carry legislation provided in Act 562 would have allowed concealed weapons to be carried into UA sporting events, UAMS system hospitals, and campus day care centers, but those facilities were later excluded in Act 859 after reported pressure from the Southeastern Conference.

Legislators passed the new campus carry laws despite opposition by the universities of the state including the flagship University of Arkansas, local police, and city and chamber of commerce officials.

The legislation was proposed by Arkansas Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville. Collins’ initial proposal would have allowed only UA faculty and staff to carry weapons on campus, but legislators ultimately expanded the law to include anyone over 21 at the urging of lobbyists from the National Rifle Association.

Collins authored a similar law that passed the legislature in 2013 that allowed universities to opt of of allowing concealed carry on campus, and brought the legislation back this session to remove the opt out clause after every university in the state exercised the opt out option each year since the legislation was introduced.

The full text of Chancellor Steinmetz’ email is included below.

From: University of Arkansas
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2017 12:53 PM
To: UA: Everyone
Subject: A message from Chancellor Steinmetz about campus safety; questions regarding Acts 562 and 859

Dear Campus Community:

Providing a safe and secure environment for students, faculty, staff and campus visitors is vitally important to the University of Arkansas. It’s our highest priority. We know you share this value and want you to know we are committed to the best possible implementation of the state’s new concealed carry laws, Acts 562 and 859, that will be implemented Sept. 1, 2017.

The university is developing a new online resource where information specific to campus safety, including information about Acts 562 and 859, will be housed. Act 562 will allow individuals (age 21 or over) with concealed handgun permits, who have also successfully completed enhanced certification training, to carry concealed handguns on public college campuses and in other public places with some exclusions as defined in Act 859.

The University of Arkansas System office has provided initial guidance on the new laws, allowing individual campuses to begin the process of developing campus-specific details and information ahead of the Sept. 1 implementation.

Concealed handguns will not be allowed at athletic events or in the Jean Tyson Child Development Study Center, nor will they be allowed to be stored in residence halls. However, we know the campus community has many other questions related to the new laws. We want to gather all those questions and provide answers as soon as possible.

Members of the campus community who have specific questions, not already answered by the guidance provided by the UA System, about how the new laws will be implemented on campus are asked to send them to [email protected]. University leadership will review the submitted questions and will continue to work closely with our campus community and state law enforcement to provide answers, information and guidance about the new laws.

This information will be incorporated into the safety website now being developed. We plan to launch the website in June, a few months before the law goes into effect. More discussions will follow but I wanted to let you know we’re working very hard on the transition to the new concealed carry law.

Thank you for your patience as we work together to implement the law.

Joseph E. Steinmetz