On-cam­pus guns bill gets tweak

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - MICHAEL R. WICKLINE AND JOHN MORITZ

The Ar­kan­sas Se­nate on Thurs­day voted to add an ac­tive-shooter train­ing re­quire­ment to a bill that would al­low col­lege fac­ulty and staff mem­bers who have con­cealed-carry weapon per­mits to take guns onto cam­puses.

The Se­nate voted 2210 to add the amend­ment pro­posed by Sen. Jeremy Hutchin­son, R-Lit­tle Rock, to House Bill 1249 by Rep. Char­lie Collins, R-Fayetteville, the day after the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee re­jected a sim­i­lar amend­ment

that Hutchin­son pro­posed. The bill was amended over the op­po­si­tion of Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Do­rado, who is the bill’s spon­sor in the Se­nate.

Thurs­day’s ac­tion prompted Garner to de­clare that he would pro­pose amend­ing the bill to al­low any­one with a con­cealed-carry per­mit — not just fac­ulty and staff mem­bers — to take a weapon onto the cam­pus of any pub­lic twoyear or four-year univer­sity, if that per­son un­der­goes the same train­ing the amend­ment re­quires.

In a re­lated mat­ter, an ap­pro­pri­a­tion mea­sure for fouryear uni­ver­si­ties failed to clear the House later Thurs­day, after Collins cited the pos­si­ble cost of the ac­tive-shooter train­ing amend­ment.

“The col­leges may be re­quir­ing peo­ple to get dozens and dozens of hours of gun train­ing, and I think we need to get that re­solved — how much money it’s go­ing to take for that — be­fore we start al­lo­cat­ing money in other places,” he said. “I would vote ‘no’ on this at this time.”

The House’s 55-33 vote on Se­nate Bill 314 fell 20 votes short of the 75 re­quired for ap­proval in the 100-mem­ber House.

The bill would grant mil­lions of dol­lars in dis­cre­tionary spend­ing au­thor­ity for pro­posed build­ing projects at the state’s four-year uni­ver­si­ties. The pro­posed projects would be fi­nanced out of the state’s Gen­eral Im­prove­ment Fund that largely con­sists of sur­plus gen­eral rev­enue. State of­fi­cials haven’t fore­cast a sur­plus for fis­cal 2017, which ends June 30.

Un­der the cur­rent firearms-on-cam­pus law, passed in 2013, col­leges are al­lowed to opt out of al­low­ing fac­ulty and staff mem­bers to take their weapons on cam­pus. All pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties in state have opted out.

HB1249 would re­quire pub­lic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties to al­low their staff mem­bers to carry hand­guns on cam­pus. Col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tors, as well as cam­pus and city po­lice de­part­ments, have mostly lined up against HB1249.

Hutchin­son told se­na­tors that he agrees that there is a need for al­low­ing guns on cam­pus un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances.

He said he spon­sored leg­is­la­tion two years ago that re­quires ac­tive-shooter train­ing for em­ploy­ees who carry weapons in pub­lic schools, and he’s re­ceived no com­plaints about the train­ing re­quire­ment.

“I think if we are go­ing to man­date pol­icy … we ought to get the pol­icy right,” Hutchin­son said.

He said his pro­posed amend­ment would re­quire fac­ulty and staff mem­bers who have con­cealed-carry per­mits to un­dergo 16 hours of train­ing as pro­vided by the Ar­kan­sas State Po­lice be­fore they are al­lowed to carry weapons on cam­pus.

Garner urged se­na­tors to re­ject Hutchin­son’s amend­ment.

He said Collins has worked hard on this leg­is­la­tion for sev­eral years and that Hutchin­son’s amend­ment didn’t ex­ist un­til Wed­nes­day. Col­lege fac­ulty and staff mem­bers could un­dergo the train­ing with­out it be­ing re­quired in Collins’ leg­is­la­tion, Garner said.

Se­nate Repub­li­can leader Jim Hen­dren of Sul­phur Springs said he would vote for the bill. He said “this is se­ri­ous busi­ness and [about] more than just pol­i­tics and push cards.”

The weapons-per­mit­ted col­lege fac­ulty and staff mem­bers “will be pre­pared bet­ter” by un­der­go­ing the train­ing re­quired un­der Hutchin­son’s amend­ment “than if there were none,” said Hen­dren, who is Hutchin­son’s cousin.

Hutchin­son said that after the House ap­proved Collins’ bill, he ap­proached Collins about amend­ing the mea­sure, but they were un­suc­cess­ful in reach­ing a con­sen­sus.

Collins said he of­fered Hutchin­son and higher-ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials two op­tions — ei­ther leave the bill as it was — lim­ited con­cealed carry to staff mem­bers — or add a train­ing re­quire­ment and al­low any­one who com­pletes it and has a per­mit to carry a weapon on cam­pus.

The higher-ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials re­jected Collins’ sec­ond op­tion be­cause it would al­low stu­dents to carry weapons on cam­pus.

On Wed­nes­day, Hutchin­son told the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee that a 16-hour train­ing re­quire­ment could ease weapon-carry se­cu­rity con­cerns of cam­pus po­lice and ad­min­is­tra­tors. But sup­port­ers of the bill ques­tioned the cost and the need for such en­hanced train­ing. The amend­ment failed to clear the eight-mem­ber com­mit­tee be­cause only Hutchin­son and Sen. Will Bond, D-Lit­tle Rock, voted for it.

The resur­gence of the amend­ment Thurs­day seemed to catch Collins off guard. He sug­gested that op­po­nents were at­tempt­ing to de­rail the bill.

“It’s not about train­ing, it’s about some­thing else,” Collins said Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

At a Thurs­day news con­fer­ence, Gov. Asa Hutchin­son said “I have a his­tory of sup­port­ing the safety in the class­room, and it has to be by armed per­son­nel.

“There’s some se­ri­ous ob­jec­tions that have been raised in terms of safety so I want to meet, de­pend­ing on what hap­pens in the Se­nate, I want to have an op­por­tu­nity to talk fur­ther with Rep. Collins, as well the higher- ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials that have ex­pressed con­cerns,” the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor said.

“There’s hope­fully a will­ing­ness to ad­dress some of my con­cerns for co­or­di­na­tion train­ing with the law en­force­ment that’s al­ready on the cam­pus,” Hutchin­son said. The gov­er­nor is the un­cle of Hen­dren and Sen. Hutchin­son.

Speak­ing to a re­porter Thurs­day out­side the House cham­ber — soon after Collins spoke against the higher-ed­u­ca­tion ap­pro­pri­a­tion — Sen. Hutchin­son said he was cau­tious in light of the day’s events.

“I don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” Sen. Hutchin­son said. “I can’t pre­dict the Se­nate any­more.”

Rep. Greg Led­ing, D-Fayetteville, also was cau­tious. He has re­peat­edly said that con­stituents in his dis­trict, which in­cludes the Univer­sity of Ar­kan­sas cam­pus, over­whelm­ingly op­pose HB1249. He said the House, which passed the orig­i­nal bill 71-22, could ei­ther strip Hutchin­son’s amend­ment or in­clude the amend­ment pro­posed by Collins and Garner.

Even in its present amended form, Led­ing said, he would still op­pose the bill.

“I’m grate­ful to Sen. Hutchin­son, I think it makes an aw­ful bill a lit­tle less aw­ful,” Led­ing said.

Ar­kan­sas Demo­crat-Gazette/MITCHELL PE MASILUN

Rep. Dou­glas House, R-North Lit­tle Rock, presents a bill Thurs­day in the House to al­low med­i­cal-mar­i­juana pa­tients with chronic con­di­tions to keep cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for three years in­stead of hav­ing to re­new an­nu­ally. The mea­sure was sent back to com­mit­tee, while four other mar­i­juana-re­lated bills were ap­proved.

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