Arkansas gun exemption for stadiums heads to governor's desk
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) Arkansas lawmakers sent the governor a measure Friday exempting college sporting events from a new state law that greatly expands where concealed handguns are allowed.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he plans sign the bill Monday after it was approved by the state Senate on a 23-7 vote. The move comes a little over a week after the Republican governor approved legislation that allows someone with a concealed handgun license to carry at colleges, government buildings and some bars to carry if they undergo eight hours of active shooter training.
The Southeastern Conference and two of the other major college athletic conferences in the state had urged lawmakers to make the change, saying the concealed handgun law raised concerns. The University of Arkansas is an SEC school.
Hutchinson said after the vote he believed the measure struck the right balance and ensured college sports events could be gun-free if they had a security plan in place.
''It gives confidence to all the fans that were nervous about this that it's been remedied and it's not going to be a problem and we can enjoy football games and other sports in Arkansas without any problem,'' Hutchinson said on the syndicated radio show Sports Talk with Bo Mattingly.
The measure was opposed by the National Rifle Association, which had backed the expanded concealed handgun law. One lawmaker complained that the exemptions measure was being rushed through.
''The way this has been handled has been an embarrassment to the SEC, it's an embarrassment to put the NRA in this situation,'' Republican Sen. Bryan King, who opposed the bill, said before the vote. ''It is an embarrassment to put this state in this situation with the way this process has been handled.''
Under the measure, college stadiums such as the University of Arkansas' Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences would be able to designate sensitive areas where they wouldn't want people to carry concealed handguns. To prohibit concealed carry in those sensitive areas, they would have to put together a security plan for those areas and submit it to Arkansas State Police for approval.
The bill also exempts public daycares from places where concealed handguns are allowed.
The gun law approved last week takes effect Sept. 1, but Arkansas residents likely won't be allowed to carry concealed weapons into the expanded locations until early next year. The law gives Arkansas State Police until January to design the additional training that will be required. More than 220,000 people have concealed handgun licenses in the state.
Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo