Thursday, February 16, 2017

Can the legislature override university control in the campus carry bill?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 7:27 AM

click to enlarge GUNS ON CAMPUS: The photo comes from Facebook page of Arkansans Against Guns on Campus, a universal sentiment among the state's higher education institutions.
  • GUNS ON CAMPUS: The photo comes from Facebook page of Arkansans Against Guns on Campus, a universal sentiment among the state's higher education institutions.
A former legislator asks: Can the Arkansas Constitution's Amendment 33 block the legislature's effort to force guns on college campuses?

It's at least an interesting question.

The Encyclopedia of Arkansas relates the history of Amendment 33. It was ratified by voters in 1942 and intended to prohibit the governor and legislature from diminishing the power of state agencies, particularly higher education. It arose from a governor's attempt to fire J. William Fulbright as new president of the University of Arkansas. The amendment has informed court opinions over the years that have stood in the way of state takeover of higher education regulation. So how about guns?

The relevant portion of the Amendment:

The board or commission of any institution, governed by this amendment, shall not be abolished nor shall the powers vested in any such board or commission be transferred, unless the institution is abolished or consolidated with some other State institution.
As it stands, the legislation would rip from university boards the power to decide whether employees can carry weapons on campus.

It's a debate the colleges might prefer not to open, certainly now with an Arkansas Supreme Court that  seems deferential to legislative wishes. Another open question — not yet addressed in court — is whether the new constitutional amendment giving the legislature review power over just about every aspect of state government might have repealed by implication the constitutional independence afforded colleges, the Game and Fish Commission and the Highway Department.

Accepting guns on campus, in short, might be a smaller loss than losing all control. That could lead to a true higher education regulatory agency, as opposed to an agency with largely advisory powers currently.

Any lawyers with opinions?

I doubt the question will deter the Senate from soon giving final passage to Rep. Charlie Collins' NRA-backed bill to increase the number of weapons on campuses.

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