Lawmakers in both states this week gave a thumbs up to legislation allowing lawful carry of concealed handguns on public college and university campuses.
The Arkansas House approved HB 1249 by a 71-22 vote while in Wyoming HB 136 passed 40-19, in both cases sending the bills to their respective state senates for further consideration. In each instance, the bills were passed largely along party lines in Republican-controlled chambers.
The Arkansas measure is the narrower of the two, tailored to allow faculty and staff to carry on campus provided they have a permit. Republican Rep. Charlie Collins, the sponsor of the bill, argued it could help augment school security.
“I’m recommending to you that we allow faculty and staff who have a concealed carry permit to carry on campus, not to create more gunfights at the O.K. Corral but to deter some of the gunfights that we might otherwise have,” said Collins, as reported by the AP.
While gun rights groups endorse the measure and echo Collins’ remarks, gun control advocates see the bill as a threat to public safety and are urging lawmakers in the Arkansas Senate to reject it.
“Guns on campus are a bad idea,” said Austin Bailey with the Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action in a statement. “Our law enforcement officers have told us that this legislation will make their jobs harder and more dangerous in crisis situations, and Arkansas professors have told us that this will change the focused learning environment they’re trying to cultivate in their classrooms.”
The Wyoming bill would allow those with a valid concealed carry permit to bring their firearm to or near campus, including sporting events, without first having to get the consent of school security.
“People may think they’re safe, but they are not,” said Rep. Bo Biteman, the bill’s sponsor.
Supported by the National Rifle Association and other Second Amendment groups, as in Arkansas gun control advocates panned the Wyoming proposal.
“Last I checked, our children go to school to learn math and science – not how to duck and cover from gunfire,” said Audette Fullbright with the state’s Moms Demand Action chapter.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least eight states allow for campus carry by those with permits while a ninth, Tennessee, allows only for armed faculty.