HB 1249: Guns on Campus in Arkansas

Bottom Line:The gun lobby is pushing legislation in Arkansas (HB 1249) and across the country that would force colleges to allow guns on campus. This legislation creates new dangers and burdens schools with huge costs. Major stakeholders—from police chiefs to students to college presidents—oppose this type of legislation. Arkansas lawmakers should listen to these voices and to common sense and reject attempts to force guns into our state’s colleges.

HB 1249 would make Arkansas one of the only states in the country to force colleges to allow guns on campus.

  • Only two states force colleges to allow all concealed carry permit holders to carry throughout campus. Seven additional states require schools to allow guns on campus in certain circumstances.CO and UT force schools to allow all permit holders to carry. ID, MN, MS, OR, TN, TX, and WI force carry in some circumstances.
  • Under current law, Arkansas colleges and universities can choose to allow certain full-time staff members to carry concealed handguns on campus, however to date, no college has chosen to do so.A.C.A. §5-73-306(13)(iv), A.C.A. § 5-73-322.
  • Arkansas lawmakers should respect the public safety decisions of the colleges in the state and listen to those charged with protecting safety on campus by rejecting proposals to force colleges to allow guns on campus.

Arkansas campuses are extremely safe – this bill is a solution in search of a problem.

  • There is no public safety justification for forcing Arkansas colleges to allow guns. Arkansas campuses are already extremely safe and crime is decreasing.
  • Since 2013, crime on campus has dropped 20%. There have been no homicides on Arkansas campuses, and crimes like burglary and robbery have decreased by about 40%.US Department of Education, “Campus Safety and Security,” last accessed December 14, 2016. Data is from all colleges and universities in Arkansas, available at: http://ope.ed.gov/campussafety/#/customdata/list.
  • In fact, 22 of the 52 (43.2%) public university and college campuses in Arkansas reported zero crimes in 2014, while 29 campuses (55.8%) reported five or fewer crimes and 34 campuses (65.4%) reported 10 or fewer crimes.Id.
  • An analysis of mass shootings conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety found that only 13% of mass shootings from 2009 – 2015 took place in so-called “gun free zones.”
  • A recent report from researchers at John Hopkins University found that there is no evidence that “gun free zones” facilitate mass shootings and further found that weakening gun laws that regulate the carrying of guns in public places does not reduce the number of mass shootings or the number of casualties from mass shootings.Webster, et al, “Firearms on College Campuses: Research Evidence and Policy Implication”, John Hopkins University, Oct. 15, 2016, available at: http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-gun-policy-and- research/_pdfs/GunsOnCampus.pdf.

States have overwhelmingly rejected this dangerous gun lobby proposal.

  • Though legislation forcing colleges to allow guns on campus was introduced in 18 states in 2016, Tennessee was the only state to enact one of these bills.
  • In Georgia, where a guns-on-campus bill passed through the state legislature, the Governor vetoed the legislation, stating “If the intent of [the bill] is to increase the safety of students on college campuses, it is highly questionable that such would be the result.”Atlanta Journal Constitution, Greg Bluestein, “Nathan Deal Vetoes Georgia’s Campus Carry Legislation”, May 3, 2016, available at: http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2016/05/03/source-nathan-deal-to-veto-georgias-campus-carry-legislation/.

States that have recently passed legislation forcing colleges to allow guns on campus are already starting to see negative consequences.

  • Lawsuits and Faculty Retention: In Texas, where a guns-on-campus bill passed in 2015, implementation has been extremely contentious. Professors are currently suing the state
    and the University of Texas, prominent faculty members have left to take jobs in other states, and educators have withdrawn from consideration for posts at Texas universities.Texas Tribune, Matthew Watkins,” Three UT Professors Sue to Block Campus Carry Law”, July 6, 2016, available at: https://www.texastribune.org/2016/07/06/3-ut-austin-professors-sue-state-over-campus-carry/; LA Times, Molly Hennessy- Fiske, “New Law Allowing Concealed Guns on Campus Roils University of Texas”, March 24, 2016, available at: http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-texas-campus-carry-20160324-story.html.
  • Injuries: In Idaho, a professor with an “enhanced” carry permit accidentally shot himself in the leg during a chemistry lab following the passage of a 2014 law that forced Idaho colleges to allow people with enhanced permits to carry guns on campus.Associated Press, “Idaho State University Teacher Accidentally Shoots Self in Class”, Sept. 4, 2014, available at: http://every.tw/188lNOu.. And there have been
    other incidents, including in Utah, where in 2012 a 24-year-old student who had a permit accidentally shot himself while walking on campus.Associated Press, “Webster State Student Accidentally Shoots Himself”, Jan 5, 2012, available at: http://www.heraldextra.com/news/local/weber-state-student-accidentally-shoots-himself/article_eef6a77c-37d6-11e1-860e- 0019bb2963f4.html.

Guns on campus would burden colleges with large new costs for security and insurance.

Arkansas stakeholders—including colleges, campus police, and faculty—all oppose guns on campus.

  • Arkansas Colleges and Universities: Since 2013, Arkansas colleges and universities have had the option to allow certain full-time staff members to carry guns on campus. Since the law went into effect every public and private university has chosen not to do so.Arkansas News, “Bill to Allow Guns on College Campuses Advances”, Feb. 27, 2015, available at: http://www.arkansasnews.com/news/arkansas/bill-allow-guns-college-campuses-advances..
  • Arkansas College Administrators: The Chancellor of the University of Arkansas, Joseph Steinmetz, has stated that he is opposed to guns on campus, noting that his views are in line with the majority of faculty and students on campus.Arkansas Times, Max Brantley & Benjamin Hardy, “Update: UA Chancellor Pays a Call; Talks Bathrooms, Razorbacks and More”, May 20, 2016, available at: http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2016/05/20/ua-chancellor-pays-a-call- talks-bathrooms-razorbacks-and-more.
  • Arkansas Students: The University of Arkansas Graduate Student Congress voted to support the current law which allows universities to make the choice whether to allow guns on campus.15 Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Jaimie Adame, “Student Leaders Back “Opt-Out” Provision”, Dec. 11, 2016, available at: http://www.nwaonline.com/news/2016/dec/11/student-leaders-back-gun-opt-out-provision/.
  • Nationwide: University stakeholders across the country oppose guns on campus, including 95% of college presidents and 94% of college faculty.Price, James H., et al. "University Presidents’ Perceptions and Practice Regarding the Carrying of Concealed Handguns on College Campuses." Journal of American College Health 62.7 (2014): 461-469; Thompson, Amy, et al. "Faculty perceptions and practices regarding carrying concealed handguns on university campuses." Journal of community health 38.2 (2013): 366-373.