Guns are big, but foot­ball’s big­ger

The Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion loses a match to the re­luc­tant Ra­zor­backs

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Guns are big in Ar­kan­sas, but hogs and foot­ball can be big­ger. The Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion took on the Ra­zor­backs of the Univer­sity of Ar­kan­sas over a law that would have en­abled fans to take their guns to the game, and the Ra­zor­backs won.

The Sec­ond Amend­ment is holy writ in Ar­kan­sas, which has some of the most lib­eral gun laws in the na­tion, and un­der a law en­acted ear­lier this year hold­ers of li­censes to carry con­cealed guns who had taken eight hours of ex­tra training were legally en­ti­tled to take their guns into pub­lic col­lege cam­puses, in­clud­ing sta­di­ums and sports are­nas. Sa­loons, churches, and most pub­lic build­ings, too, even the state Capi­tol in Lit­tle Rock. More than 200,000 Arkansans hold such per­mits.

This up­set mem­bers of the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence, all from the South or ad­join­ing states, in­clud­ing Ar­kan­sas, where the Sec­ond Amend­ment is also held pre­cious. But rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the 14 mem­bers of the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence were afraid that guns, booze and foot­ball would make a lethal mix in places where hyped-up fans, through the haze of late af­ter­noon and three hours or so nurs­ing a bot­tle, might mis­take the grid­iron for the green fields of Get­tys­burg, Nor­mandy or Guadal­canal.

“Given the in­tense at­mos­phere sur­round­ing ath­letic events, adding weapons in­creases safety con­cerns and could neg­a­tively im­pact the in­ter­col­le­giate ath­let­ics pro­gram at the Univer­sity of Ar­kan­sas in sev­eral ways,” warned Greg Sankey, the com­mis­sioner of the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence, “in­clud­ing sched­ul­ing, of­fi­ci­at­ing, re­cruit­ing and at­ten­dance.”

When Brett Bielema, the coach of the foot­ball Hogs, as they are af­fec­tion­ately called, chimed in with his fears that re­cruit­ing play­ers might be­come even more dif­fi­cult, sec­ond thoughts, and some­times third thoughts, oc­curred to the leg­is­la­ture.

“When I say to a par­ent, ‘I take your son’s safety to the high­est de­gree in my heart,’ ” the coach said, “I don’t want to ever put that in jeop­ardy.” He promised to say more later, but he never had to. The leg­is­la­ture be­gan fash­ion­ing ex­emp­tions to the ex­panded gun­rights law for sport­ing events. The Sec­ond Amend­ment was well and good, and all that, but the Hogs de­prived of play­ing Ole Miss, or Alabama or LSU was a hor­ror not to be imag­ined.

The ex­emp­tions, which leg­is­la­tors took care to say were only re­vi­sions and did not con­sti­tute re­peal of the ear­lier law, were ap­proved by Gov. Asa Hutchi­son and the new law was duly signed. Arkansans with a per­mit to pack heat can still take their guns to church, and to sa­loons and other pub­lic places, though not to day-care cen­ters.

The leg­is­la­tor who spon­sored the leg­is­la­tion took pains to say he only did it for the Hogs, and only be­cause he felt he had to. Rep. Bob Ballinger, a Repub­li­can like nearly ev­ery other mem­ber of the leg­is­la­ture, said he thought con­cerns with the orig­i­nal law were “overblown,” but he didn’t want to jeop­ar­dize sport­ing events. “The is­sue is that maybe we took 10 steps for­ward, and a lot of peo­ple weren’t ready to go quite that far for­ward,” he said, “so now we’re tak­ing one step back­ward.”

Many leg­is­la­tors wor­ried that vot­ing for the ex­emp­tions would im­peril their ap­proval rat­ings by the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, which are highly prized. An­thony Roulette, the Ar­kan­sas lob­by­ist for the NRA, said no de­ci­sions about that have been made. “That’s a de­ci­sion our [po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee] makes, but it’s a key vote, yes.” (Woooo, pig! Soooie!)

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.