On May 23, 2013, the Board of Trustees at the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University voted to opt out of Act 226; a law that would allow licensed and permitted faculty and staff to conceal carry on campus. The decision to opt out applies to all 11 UA campuses and all four ASU campuses statewide. Many other colleges and universities around the state have already decided to opt out as well.
Act 226 began as HB 1243, which was signed into law by Governor Beebe and takes effect in July. The law modifies the absolute prohibition of handguns on public and private university and college campuses, by allowing faculty and staff that possess a CHCL, Concealed Handgun Carry License, to carry a concealed firearm on campus. An amendment was added to the bill that allowed universities and colleges to opt out of the law and to determine their own regulations regarding the possession of handguns on their campuses. This amendment quieted much of the opposition to the bill, and garnered the support of Governor Beebe.
Despite some disinformation and outright fear mongering by opposition groups, the law only applies to faculty and staff, and does not allow concealed carry by students, even by those who possess a license. Much ado has been made about the dangers of more guns on campuses, with comparisons to the Wild West and chaotic shootouts. But these comparisons deliberately disregard the fact that licensed and permitted CHCL holders are some of the most responsible and safety conscious individuals there are. Licenses are not handed out indiscriminately to anyone. To obtain a license one must pass a background check and a test proving that they are aware of and practice all gun related safety measures. Although there are no national numbers, statistics from Texas, Florida, Michigan, Kansas and other states show that less than 1% of concealed carry permit holders are involved in firearm related crimes.
By opting out of Act 226, the universities and colleges in the state of Arkansas have determined that their campuses shall remain “gun free zones”. Signs will be posted and law-abiding people will not carry their guns for personal protection. Unfortunately, criminals and individuals intent on harming others do not obey the laws and pay no heed to signs. They will still bring guns onto campus, and if and when they choose to use them, will have a multitude of unarmed targets that will have no way of defending themselves. By allowing licensed and permitted faculty and staff to carry guns, they can act as first responders until the police arrive, limiting the damage done by a criminal and possibly preventing the crime altogether. Instead, the universities and colleges have decided that they would rather have campuses full of unarmed victims, sitting ducks for the next evil and deranged criminal that is intent on murdering others.