LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Cleanup legislation targets Arkansas's new gun law just one week after the governor signed it.
HB 1249, now Act 562, allows concealed carry license holders with up to eight hours of additional training to bring guns into live sporting events, public colleges and universities, even the state capitol.
After attracting national attention, lawmakers are trying to make changes that could keep concealed handguns out of stadiums and other places.
"We took ten steps forward and a lot of people weren't quite ready to go that far forward," said St. Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, who crafted the amendment. "So now we're taking one step backwards."
The newly-amended legislation would allow teaching hospitals, like UAMS and the state hospital, and collegiate sporting events to designate gun-free zones. Before they could, Arkansas State Police would determine whether the entities can provide enough security on their own.
It would also give private entities, like churches, bars and private colleges, another way of opting out of concealed carry.
Act 562 allows private institutions to ban concealed carry if they post clear signage. If holders violate that, they would face a criminal charge.
SB 724 goes a step further and says private entities don't have to post signage to prohibit concealed carry. They can ban holders one-on-one by giving them a warning instead of a criminal charge.
"It only makes sense to be able to do it that way," said St. Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, who sponsored HB 1249. "Continue to help us refine the tremendous, humongous step forward we've made on two fronts: protecting our fellow citizens and expanding our gun rights."
The NRA vehemently opposes the new legislation, calling it a step backward.
"Currently under Arkansas law, any concealed carry permit holder may store a firearm in their vehicle in a public parking lot on public college and university grounds," said Anthony Roulette, a state liason for the NRA.
Roulette worries the gun-free zones would be too broad. He also questioned how state police would determine if teaching hospitals and college sporting events could provide enough security on their own.
A Second Amendment advocate and speaker blasted the legislation, urging her fellow Republicans to remember their pro-gun rights platform.
"You are not here to do the will of Gov. Asa Hutchinson," said Jan Morgan.
However, lawmakers believe the new restrictions they're adding are doing the will of the people.
"We have a job to legislate," said Rep. Ballinger. "And I think that's what we're doing here."
A roll call vote showed the House judiciary committee narrowly passing SB 724 as amended Tuesday afternoon.
It now heads to the House floor where a lot of people in the Natural State and elsewhere will be watching to see how state representatives vote, especially after the SEC commissioner released a statement Tuesday asking lawmakers to exempt college stadiums.
"Do I think these Henny Penny, 'sky is falling!,' tragic predictions are going to come true?," Rep. Collins said in committee referring to the statement. "I do not think they are. However, as much of a know-it-all as I am, I still cannot guarantee they won't happen."
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