Arkansas lawmakers pass bill to expand where guns can be carried

Arkansas lawmakers have passed a bill that would significantly expand the areas where concealed guns can be carried in the state.

Arkansas News reports the Arkansas House passed House Bill 1249, sponsored by Republican Rep. Charlie Collins, on a 71-18 vote. It now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who is expected to sign the measure.

The legislation was approved last month in the Arkansas House but was limited to allowing staff members with concealed-carry permits to carry concealed firearms on state college and university campuses.

The Senate then amended the bill to allow anyone over 21-years-old with concealed-carry permits to carry concealed guns at colleges, certain government buildings — such as the state Capitol — and private venues like restaurants and bars.

The bill now requires lawful gun owners to complete eight hours of extra training in order to carry concealed weapons in the expanded areas.

Guns will still be prohibited in courtrooms, pre-kindergarten programs, k-12 schools, and state correctional facilities. College disciplinary hearings can ban guns if officials provide 24 hours notice of the meetings.

Collins said his original intention for the bill was “to try to address a problem, which is the murders and killings that are happening on school grounds.”

Opponents, including Democrat Rep. John Walker, argued that arming more people would not solve any problems.

“The biggest problem is the streets of America,” Walker said, “where if you allow persons to have guns and you don’t have any kind of regulation, then we continue to have, instead of 50 to 100 people killed in schools in a year, you’ll continue to have 40,000 to 50,000 people killed on the streets.”