An Arkansas law dramatically expanding where concealed handguns are allowed will take effect this week, but the training needed to carry those guns to college campuses, bars, government buildings and other new locations may not be available until early next year.
After the law takes effect September 1, Arkansas State Police will have 120 days to design the additional training requirements which concealed handgun licensees will need to complete before they can carry their weapons at college campuses and other places allowed under the new measure. More than 225,000 people have concealed handgun licenses in Arkansas.
A state police spokesman said the agency is making progress, but didn’t give a timeline for when the training standards would be available for the roughly 1,000 concealed handgun instructors around the state. The additional training can be up to eight hours long.
“We’re not cranking up the enhanced concealed carry license machine on September 1. There’s got to be these checks and balances in terms of rules and procedures,” spokesman Bill Sadler said.
Higher education officials around Arkansas have already been briefing faculty, staff and students about the new law, including reminders that concealed weapons are banned on campus until the enhanced licenses are available.
“The message from our campus is that firearms are not allowed on campus unless you meet the qualifications of this statute and it’s not possible to meet those qualifications yet,” said Brad Phelps, general counsel for the Arkansas State University System.
What the law says and doesn’t say
Lawmakers who pushed for the measure earlier this year said the additional training would prepare licensees for active shooter situations at places like colleges and universities, but the legislation doesn’t refer to such situations and leaves the guidance up to state police.
“No law enforcement-styled training will be part of the syllabus being prepared for concealed handgun license instructors,” Sadler said. “Instructors will be encouraged to emphasize training for licensees about complying with orders from police and applicable laws should a licensee be present as an active shooting incident might begin to evolve.”
Republican Sen. Trent Garner, a lead sponsor of the guns measure, said lawmakers wanted to give state police leeway in developing the training program.
“I think it’ll be both an enhancement of what you already learn in concealed-carry (training) with the added-on training of how to respond to a person in a closed area who is actively trying to engage you,” Garner said.
A Democratic lawmaker who opposed the gun expansion said he’s hearing concerns from students and faculty about the law’s effects, and questioned how much the additional training would help.
“I don’t think anything they cram into an eight-hour training session could properly prepare somebody for the trauma of a live shooting,” said Rep. Greg Leding.
State police are also working on the rules for the security plans colleges and universities will have to submit to exempt sporting events from the expanded guns measure. The exemption was added in follow-up legislation after the campus guns law drew objections from the Southeastern Conference and others over fears about allowing weapons at football games and other events. So far, no schools have submitted security plans for the exemptions.