Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday signed a bill into law that will significantly expand where concealed guns can be carried in the state.
House Bill 1249, sponsored by Republican Rep. Charlie Collins, will now be known as Act 562 and will allow Arkansans with concealed-carry permits to carry guns on public college campuses, the state Capitol, and several other public places, so long as those individuals received up to eight hours of required training.
As reported by ArkansasOnline, Gov. Hutchinson signed the bill at a news conference on Wednesday.
“This bill in my view reflects the will of the General Assembly and is constitutional and will balance public safety and the Second Amendment,” Hutchinson said.
Act 562 will take effect Sept. 1 and calls for Arkansas State Police to formulate a firearms training program within 120 days of that date. The training will be designed with input from universities and other public organizations.
“The public should not be confused that everyone with a concealed-weapons permit is going to be allowed to go into sensitive areas. That is not true,” Hutchinson said.
“It’s going to be [a] much more limited population, but they will be trained and obviously they will be trained in active-shooter circumstances, how to coordinate with law enforcement and when that is done, I am convinced the public will be more safe. We will have more safety in our institutions and our public spaces,” he said.
Opponents, such as Democrat Rep. Greg Leding, pointed out many professors, students and parents were against the legislation, and that amendments to the bill did not change their fundamental disagreements.
Leding said it was “ridiculous” that guns could now be carried into places such as Razorback Stadium, but Rep. Collins argued that the new law “is increasing the safety of Arkansas by deterring some of these crazy killers from choosing to go to our campuses and potentially murder people.”
“This is not a panacea,” Collins said. “I don’t pretend that it is. Bad things can happen. There is no such thing as a perfect solution, but I believe it is going to move us in the right direction.”
While the legislation was supported by the National Rifle Association, it does come with restrictions. Guns would still not be allowed to be stored in dormitories or residence halls at universities. Firearms would also be barred from grievance hearings, prisons, courtrooms, public schools, and pre-kindergarten.
State Supreme Court justices and judges on the Arkansas Court of Appeals would be authorized to carry guns into the Justice Building.