UPDATE: Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the expanded concealed carry legislation, but some additional legislation is promised, at a minimum to exempt UAMS and the State Hospital, an inpatient facility for the mentally ill, from the expanded list of places where concealed weapons are allowed for those with a new enhanced permit that requires an additional day of training.
Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association's Institute for Legislative Action — the NRA's lobbying arm — was on hand for the event, and the governor credited him as a force behind the bill. That was not exactly a secret. Arkansas loves the 2nd Amendment, the governor said, in proudly introducing Cox.
Sen. Jon Dismang said he'd present an amendment to provide for carve-outs for UAMS and the State Hospital. (Update: Here's the proposed amendment.) It also will allow private colleges to choose not to post a weapons prohibition. The bill as it stands requires a posting if they choose to prohibit weapons.
To questions about football games, Hutchinson confirmed that guns would be legal but said you could slip a weapon in there now as well. "If you think about it, while you might have a sign that says ‘No weapons allowed in Razorback stadium,’ there’s not any magnetometers, and so a bad guy could get a gun into Razorback stadium now. This does [allow] carry into sensitive areas, so … under this current law, if you had the enhanced training you would be able to go into that facility."
The rules won't be in place until Jan. 1, he noted.
Dismang's amendment was revealed in response to a press question, not a part of the announcement of the signing. He said it was "not to say" there might not be some other specific changes.
Rep. Charlie Collins was on hand to tout his bill as a potential national leader and to say it would reduce mass shootings — none of which has occurred to date on an Arkansas college campus. He said he'd be open to some other ideas on exemptions.
Hutchinson signed the bill in private before meeting reporters. That's a photo you might not want to have framed should something awful happen. He emphasized in public remarks that the bill doesn't open places to all concealed carry permit holders but only for those who'll obtain an enhanced permit through a training program overseen by the Arkansas State Police. "I'm convinced the public will be more safe," the governor said.
The action was condemned quickly by gun safety groups. The Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety, today released this statement from Austin Bailey
“Being one of thousands of Arkansans fighting to stop this dangerous legislation has been an eye-opening experience. I’ve learned that our state legislators – and even our governor – listen to the gun lobby over their constituents and the people who will be directly affected by this legislation. That’s something we won’t soon forget. This legislation will make everyday life in Arkansas more dangerous. State legislators should know that passing this gun lobby priority will only motivate supporters of gun sense to get louder in Arkansas – our kids are at risk and we will not be silent while legislators gamble with their safety.”
Collins said the presence of concealed permit holders will discourage people who "plot and plan" to "mercilessly murder our loved ones." These people can't plan for "a good guy who might deter their plan," Collins said.
The NRA crowed:
"Only criminals can find safety in gun-free zones,” said Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action. “By allowing enhanced permit holders to carry in more places, Gov. Hutchinson has made Arkansas a safer place to live.”
Sen. Trent Garner, who pushed for the expansion in the Senate, recounted how he had to "de-arm" himself and be unsafe when he went to college and law school after serving as a weapons sergeant on tours as a Green Beret in Afghanistan.
Hutchinson said he'd consider security enhanced by presence of people with weapons in his conference room, given that they'd have enhanced training.
After the press event, Cox told reporters that the bill was a victory, but did not ultimately achieve the organization's aims of allowing guns to be carried virtually everywhere. "We believe that if you have a legal right to be somewhere, and you’re a law-abiding person, you ought to have a legal right to defend yourself. …. This is a step in the right direction toward that recognition. Is it a full recognition? No, but it’s a step in the right direction."
You can watch the full news conference with Q&A above. What follows was written earlier today. The speculation was overheated, clearly.
click to enlarge
BIG GUNS: Chris Cox of NRA, Gov. Hutchinson and Rep. Collins proclaim goodness of opening many more places to concealed weapons.
Original post: Speculation grows that Gov. Asa Hutchinson's 10 a.m. announcement on his decision on the campus carry bill won't be a "clean" announcement.
There are "concerns" about the bill, HB 1249. One I can see is the failure of the amended bill to prohibit concealed carry at University of Arkansas athletic events. If there's any subject that can move unmovable objects in Arkansas, it's UA football. Oh, and approximately a jillion parents of college students have told the governor they aren't happy about the thought of beer-hopped pistol packers in dorms and classrooms and dining halls.
Anyway, thoughts are growing that it won't be an uneventful bill signing. I'd still be surprised by a veto. But he might sign this on a promise that more legislation is coming to clean up "concerns." Or he might simply allow it to become law on the promise that changes are coming. A veto and substitute legislation would be a safer possibility, but the legislature might simply override the veto.
A fix would be possible through companion legislation that Rep. Charlie Collins, sponsor of the original "campus carry" bill introduced March 7. As you know, his bill grew from simply forcing colleges to allow permitted staff to concealed carry on campus to a dramatic expansion of concealed carry rights by ALL of any age with permits on college campuses, in courthouses, in the Capitol, in bars, in churches and in many other public buildings. The NRA has pronounced the bill excellent. Gun safety groups see it otherwise.
Collins' HB 2168, filed March 6 and dormant since in the Judiciary Committee, was also a campus carry bill and it could be amended into a form more acceptable to the governor, if he indeed has concerns.
NOTE: An article from Idaho, where a similar gun bill passed, raises the question of whether the NCAA will react by prohibiting championships in a state with such a bill. Some schools could refuse to play here. The NCAA's operating policies prohibit guns at tournaments. Arkansas is already at risk with the NCAA for its laws aimed at discriminating against gay people. Note, too, that even gun-crazy Texas in passing a campus firearms bill included a lengthy list of exceptions to the rule, none of which made it into Arkansas law.
As expected, the tug of war between school choice advocates and defenders of traditional public schools played out in Arkansas’s 91st General Assembly, which recently concluded its flurry of lawmaking. /more/
Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence this morning in a full page of coverage in the New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of yesterday's flurry of legal filings and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols. /more/
Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen served Gov. Asa Hutchinson and others a gift on a platter yesterday by participating in a death penalty protest outside the Governor's Mansion roughly an hour after he'd approved an order stopping use of one of three drugs used in executions and thus, effectively, halting six executions still scheduled to begin Monday. He provided cover for a state killing spree flawed from start to finish. /more/
Judge Wendell Griffen says he'll respond next week to ethics questions. Meanwhile, bigger questions linger, including what the governor knew about the prison system's dishonest hunt for killing drugs. /more/
Since scheduling the executions of eight inmates over the course of 11 days, Governor Hutchinson has said little publicly on the topic. Today, at meeting with press at the Governor's Mansion, Hutchinson acknowledged that it was unlikely he would grant executive clemency to any of the seven men scheduled to die beginning Monday. /more/
The state Board of Education was scheduled to talk this week about the Little Rock School District, under state control for two years because six of its 48 schools failed to meet an arbitrary pass rate on a standardized test. /more/
Religious leaders gathered at the Capitol this morning to deliver to Gov. Asa Hutchinson a letter signed by more than 200 asking him to stop the seven executions scheduled over a 10-day period beginning at 7 p.m. Monday. /more/
Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
Early this morning, attorneys for nine Death Row inmates, filed an argument with the 8th United States Court of Appeals contesting the state's effort to override Judge Kristine Baker's order Saturday that halted executions scheduled this month.
Don Davis, who's been moved to the killing facility of the state prison for killing tonight at 7 p.m. if a stay of execution is lifted in another federal suit, sought a stay in another federal court Sunday, but the request was denied.
Russell Racop has filed, as promised, his lawsuit over the State Police's refusal — under guidance from Attorney General Leslie Rutledge — to release records that provide information that led to the firing of current Alcoholic Beverage Control Enforcement Director Boyce Hamlet as a state trooper.
The board of directors of Metroplan has informed the state highway department that it cannot act on the highway department's June 17 request to lift its six-lane freeway cap at the board's June 29 meeting. Consideration of the request should take four months, Jacksonville Mayor Gary Fletcher wrote June 22 to highway department Director Scott Bennett.
Arkansas Business reports here on a federal court filing Wednesday that shows a second person has pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme to help a major contractor of the state Department of Human Services.
Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.
Ledbetter, the former state Board of Education chair who cast the decisive vote in 2015 to take over the LRSD, writes that Education Commissioner Johnny Key "has shown time and again that he is out of touch with our community and the needs of the district." However, Ledbetter supports the May 9 vote as a positive for the district's students and staff.
The Arkansas Department of Correction is planning for the first double execution in the U.S. in 16 years tonight. Jack Jones, 52, and Marcell Williams, 46, are scheduled to die by lethal injection. They would be the second and third prisoners put to death as part of a hurried schedule Governor Hutchinson set in advance of the state's supply of one of the three drugs used in the execution protocol expiring on April 30.
Lee Short, the lawyer for Ledell Lee, the man Arkansas put to death just before midnight last night, posted on Facebook the following letter of thanks for personal support and a bit about Lee's last hours, distributing his possessions and talking to family.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in an appeal yesterday that asks the court to rule that indigent criminal defendants are entitled to an independent expert witness. The case, McWilliams v. Dunn, goes back to the 1984 capital murder conviction of James McWilliams, who raped and murdered a woman in Tuscaloosa, Ala., during a robbery. But the high court's decision will also directly affect the fates of Don Davis and Bruce Ward, Arkansas death row prisoners who were slated to die this month, but given a reprieve by the Arkansas Supreme Court, which issued a stay in each execution, pending the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in McWilliams in June.
Photos taken Thursday night by Brian Chilson and David Koon, at Cummins Prison in Grady, the State Police barricade away from the prison and in front of the Governor's Mansion, before and after the execution of Ledell Lee.