Arkansas Passes New Gun Laws

Ryan Jurik

A law was recently passed on Tuesday by Governor Asa Hutchinson allowing concealed-carried firearms to be permitted in public spaces, including University of Arkansas’s campus and Razorback Stadium. The Law will fully take effect on September 1st.

This law has sparked controversy on whether concealed weapons should be prohibited at sporting events as well as on school grounds for its uncertain application with all around public safety.

“From an instructor’s standpoint, if I was teaching a subject that tended to spark high emotions, you get people who are emotionally invested in an issue with firearms, and I think that will have a chilling effect in classrooms on what gets discussed. It’s a type of censorship,” Mr. Norm Doege said.

The law states that people of 21 years of age with a concealed-carrying license and eight hours of active-shooter training are authorized to carry a concealed handgun to several public locations, which include churches, bars, and sporting event. It also mentioned that those who are possessing a concealed firearm are not required to inform anyone that they are carrying a weapon.

“I was an infantry squad leader that lead men into combat and these men have hundreds of hours in training with their weaponsat the range, in the heat, in the cold, in the mud, and in live shooter exercises in these things we call shoot houses. But when the actual bullets started flying, some of them still freaked out, and that’s with hundreds and hundreds of hours with training in these situations, and they’re asking in Arkansas that you take an additional eight hour course. It’s not going to prepare you for anything,” Mr. Troy Gittings said. “A lot of these advocates, they picture themselves being the hero and saving the day. It’s sheer terror. No one knows how they’re going to react. Especially when you have uniformed professionals.”

There has been a massive debate between liberals and conservatives on gun regulations. Most liberals feel that their should be sanctions on firearms, prohibiting certain types of weapons and magazine sizes for their potential lethality on the public. However, conservatives believe that they should defend their Second Amendment right and speak out against the government for placing these sanctions.

States have their own gun laws established, for example Texas and Montana allow more lenient usage of guns.

“Everyone cried bloody murder when Texas passed their open carry throughout the whole state, but nothing increased, nothing decreased, everything kind of just stayed the same. If it just stayed the same, then what good is it? We should not be passing law unless it demonstrably does something for the better,” Gittings said. “This was maybe two years ago that there was an open carry rally in Fayetteville. It was a group of about 12 of them, with assault weapons slung across their backs and their pistols on their hips, marching up and down the street in Fayetteville, and I’m having brunch with my kid and I’m like, ‘What is the point?’”

The State Senate has begun pending for reforms and exemptions for Law 526, such as restricting the use of concealed-carrying at Razorback sporting events for it’s potential impact on the moral of the team’s athletes. Other measures in revising the Law will be underway, taking an estimated course of several years to finalize the practice of this law.

“I think to some extent, security at sporting events are already on the right track,” Doege said. “They have reasonably successful searches. I don’t understand why it would be, for instance, acceptable to bring a concealed handgun into a stadium where as women can’t bring purses. That just doesn’t make any sense.“

On August 28th, 2000, the University of Arkansas experienced an encounter with gun violence. A student by the name of James Easton Kelly shot and killed his faculty adviser, Professor John R. Locke. His motive for murdering Locke was that Kelly was denied entrance into the PH.D. program, feeling that it was because of racial prejudice within the department. His resentful outlook compelled him to enter Locke’s office, shooting him while at his desk. He killed himself momentarily after Locke’s Death.

“I was at the U of A when Locke was shot,” Gittings said. “I was upstairs, he was on the first floor, I was on the second floor, and nothing could have prevented that. He had a gun; he was worried about this student. It was in his desk. Still didn’t have time to respond because when the student came in his office he had no idea the guy was going to pull a gun on him. He wouldn’t have had time to respond even if it was concealed carried behind his back.”

University of Arkansas has devised a task force to discuss the institution of policies regarding concealed-carried weapons on campus. They will address many issues that could evolve from Law 526 being exercised at their college, examining what effects it would have on students and employees, and whether emergencies should be handled by the licensed carriers or by the trained professionals.

“I would be very nervous as a faculty member or as a student to look out in a lecture hall of three or four hundred students and ponder, ‘Well, how many of these people are armed today?’ It’s more of a safety hazard than it is a safety precaution,” Doege said. “It’s just going to have a bunch of people with guns. That’s all it’s going to accomplish.”