This legislative session, so far at least, has been all about guns, abortions, and the great Medicaid debate. The legislature has already passed Act 67, the Church Protection Act, which allows churches to permit concealed handguns among their pews, and this of course has led to a number of liability questions that must now be addressed through further legislation, such as HB1284, which then seeks to limit a church’s liability for the negligence of one of its concealed-carry patrons. A bill, SB131, was delivered to the Governor for signature just this week that exempts the name and zip code of concealed-carry permit owners and applicants from release to private citizens under the Freedom of Information Act. And this bill, SB290, reduces the application fee for a concealed-carry permit “to allow more Arkansans the opportunity to protect themselves.” And just now, as I’m writing this, I notice that HB1408 has been filed, which allows the open carry of firearms in public places with a license.
Schools, of course, have not been excluded from this conversation. HB1243 permits employees of public and private colleges and universities to carry their concealed handguns on campus unless the college or university adopts a policy expressing prohibiting this, which I assume most, if not all, colleges and universities will do. Regarding K-12 campuses, HB1231, amended just this week, allows school boards to contract with existing employees who are concealed-carry permit owners to carry their concealed handguns on campus during school hours to provide additional security. And it doesn’t stop there. I hear rumblings that a bill will be filed soon that permits the arming of school principals, teacher, bus drivers, janitors, etc, and Arkansas is not the only state to attempt this.
Where does it stop? Does this really make us safer? Do we really want our children growing up in a society filled with armed guards in their schools and the constant fear that everywhere you go, someone, probably more than one person, is carrying a gun. We have more people carrying guns in public places than ever, and yet more and more people die in random shootings. When do we stop arguing about the rights of adults and actually start thinking about what’s right for our children?