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2 Arkansas lawmakers want tweak in gun law; 2 others want ban in dorm rooms

Lawmakers unhappy with some aspects of a 2017 law to create "enhanced" concealed-carry permits are planning to use the ongoing fiscal session to adopt the changes they say are needed.

The permits will allow gun owners to take their weapons into many public places, including college campuses.

On one side of the debate, supporters of the "campus carry" law, Act 562 of 2017, say the law just needs to be tweaked; some gun instructors spoke out against being required to teach "enhanced" courses or else lose their instructors' licenses.

Meanwhile, a pair of Democrats have signaled their intent to add language that would prohibit concealed weapons in college dormitories, which they said was the original intent of Act 562.

To even consider nonappropriation bills during the fiscal session will require approval of two-thirds of both chambers of the Legislature.

The first pair of resolutions filed separately in the House and the Senate would allow consideration of a bill to let concealed carry instructors opt out of offering the "enhanced" permit course, which includes up to eight hours of additional training for permit holders. It also would replace the word "nominal" when describing the cost of the course with the word "reasonable."

Two Republicans -- Sen. Trent Garner of El Dorado and Rep. Bob Ballinger of Hindsville -- sponsored those resolutions.

On Twitter on Tuesday, Garner condemned the alternate proposal by two Democrats, Rep. Greg Leding of Fayetteville and Sen. Will Bond of Little Rock, to raise the issue of banning guns in dorm rooms.

"Looking at that proposal, it's a bad step back for Arkansas, it's a bad step back for Second Amendment rights and I think a majority of members do not support that," Garner said in an interview. "My legislation they may."

Bond said he would call for a vote on his resolution to bring up the issue of guns in dorms if Republicans attempted to bring up their own gun bills.

Republicans hold strong majorities of both the House and the Senate.

If no changes are made to the 2017 law, instructors who refuse to offer the new "enhanced" courses may be stripped of their teaching permits in about six months.

College students who obtain the enhanced carry permits may keep handguns in their dorm rooms as long as the weapons remain within arm's reach at all times, according to rules devised by the Arkansas State Police.

During the 2017 regular session, the bill that became the campus carry law was subject to much haranguing by critics, and it bounced back and forth between the Senate floor and the committee considering it.

Democrats complained that the law removed the ability of public universities -- which all opposed allowing guns on their campuses -- to set their own rules. Conservative Republicans, meanwhile, said requiring extra training went against the Second Amendment.

Garner said some Republicans remained skeptical about opening up the fiscal session, which is normally reserved for spending bills, to other issues. He said he was in talks with legislative leadership and the governor's office about raising the issue of guns during the session, which opened Monday.

A Section on 02/14/2018

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