Arkansas House Committee Rejects University Conceal Carry Bill

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FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM)- The Arkansas House Education Committee rejected a bill Thursday (Feb. 5) that would allow staff members at Arkansas universities and colleges to conceal carry firearms on campus.

The proposed legislation failed on a tie vote. Ten Republicans voted in favor of the bill and 10 Democrats opposed it. The bill needed 11 votes from the committee in order to go to a vote before the full House.

Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, filed the bill in January. Collins said he believes university and college campuses can be prime targets for gunmen, and some University of Arkansas students agree.

"Every kind of social setting you're in right now, whether it's a movie theater or a campus, I think you're much more at risk for something bad happening," Will Thwaites, a freshman at the university, said.

A similar bill, also presented by Collins, was signed by Gov. Mike Beebe in 2013, but it allows a college or university board of trustees to opt out of allowing staff to carry firearms, and every institution in the state did just that.

U of A freshman Hunter Williams said he could see how allowing professors to make that choice for themselves could be beneficial.

"I think it could be important for a professor to carry a gun," he said. "If something was to happen, they could protect the students."

But Thwaites said he's not enthusiastic about the idea.

"There should also be other systems in place to prevent that from happening," he said.

Both students said they're glad the bill was proposed and they hope the discussion will help improve student safety across the state.

Collins said he plans to review the legislation and decide his next step soon.

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