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Brenda Blagg: More guns frightening

Collins’ gun bill will have unintended impact

Arkansas will allow more guns on the state's college campuses and in a lot of other places where they had been prohibited.

The prospect is frightening to many of us, who fear potential accidents at the hands of well-meaning gun owners or a gun's misuse by someone other than its owner.

Any number of scenarios, some deadly, could play out just because more guns are present in a public environment.

The primary argument offered for the new policy is that qualified concealed carry permit holders -- or the threat of them -- in the public environment might dissuade a potential shooter from carrying out an attack on an Arkansas campus (or any of the other places where guns may soon be carried).

Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expected to sign the much-amended House Bill 1249, which made a rapid trip from the state Senate back to the House of Representatives last week after the bill got amended to satisfy the National Rifle Association, among others.

The House concurred in the amendments and the legislation is on its way to Hutchinson.

HB 1249 is state Rep. Charlie Collins' bill, although it is hardly what the Fayetteville lawmaker first introduced this session or what he offered in previous sessions.

Collins' first effort, in 2011, failed outright. Two years later, he convinced colleagues to pass a law that allowed concealed carry of guns on the state's campuses, but the bill got amended to allow the governing board of each campus to opt out of the law.

No campus wanted guns on campus and their boards quickly banned weapons on their respective campuses, except for those carried by police officers.

Campuses statewide continued that practice in 2015 and 2016 and their representatives pleaded with lawmakers this year to leave the law as is.

Collins was bound and determined to take the decision away from the schools, however, and introduced a bill to eliminate the option.

Collins' original bill would have let faculty and staff members who are at least 25 years old and hold a concealed carry permit to take their guns to school.

He got more than he first bargained for, when the NRA brought its influence to bear.

The version advanced by the Legislature last week removed the age limit and allows any qualified permit holder to carry a weapon onto campus and other public places like bars and even the state Capitol -- if he or she goes through eight extra hours of active-shooter training.

Guns won't be allowed in courtrooms, prisons, dorm rooms and college grievance hearings.

The bill, which first picked up a Senate amendment requiring 16 hours of additional training for permit holders to carry on campus, was seriously reworked after the NRA got in the middle of it all.

Amendments attached in the Senate last week allowed concealed carry by any permit holder regardless of age and dropped the training requirement down to eight rather than 16 hours.

Truth be known, the NRA likely compromised for the lessened training requirement because Gov. Hutchinson made clear that he preferred additional training. He might have considered vetoing a bill without the training.

Collins said after passage of the bill that he was "very excited" and again made the argument that the state may "see fewer of these crazy killers going onto college campuses and shooting."

He was talking about the kind of crazed killers that have wreaked havoc on college and public school campuses in the past. He really believes those people will be deterred just because they can expect someone else to have guns on college campuses, the places he had called "gun-free zones."

They won't be gun-free when his law becomes effective Sept. 1.

Collins can call this a win if he wants. But he owns this legislation, just as Gov. Hutchinson and all the others who supported it will when (not if) a gun legally carried into some public arena in Arkansas is misused.

Commentary on 03/19/2017

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