Update: Slightly cooler heads prevailed. Public sports stadiums are now exempt from this law. The SEC and Sun Belt conferences had joined in calling for no guns in stadiums during college games.
Original: On Wednesday, March 22, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed into law a bill that’ll allow Arkansans to take guns into public buildings, including college football stadiums such as the Razorbacks 72,000-seater, if they’ve received a concealed-carry permit, taken eight hours of training, and are 25 or older. The NRA wanted to remove the latter two parts.
Also that day, Arkansas’ conference, the SEC, announced a new clear bag policy, banning purses, binocular bags, backpacks, and any other non-clear containers that are bigger than tiny. It expands on a similar policy already enforced by the Razorbacks. Lots of sports teams do this, many of them saying the guidance comes from the Department of Homeland Security.
So starting in 2018, we could have one building containing dozens of guns, quite a few drunk people with guns, armed people from out of state who are rooting for the other team, officials who are ruling against Arkansas, high emotional stakes, and people with guns filing out of the stadium to do more tailgating, with the same repeating on a smaller scale at Arkansas State and Central Arkansas.
But at least there won’t be any fanny packs.
[State rep Greg Leding, whose district includes the university,] said it was ‘ridiculous’ to allow someone with a loaded weapon into a Razorback football game.
‘I don't know why you can't take an umbrella into the stadium, but you can take loaded guns,’ he said.
At his news conference, Hutchinson said, ‘A bad guy could get a gun into Razorback Stadium now. Under this current law, if you have got the enhanced training, then you would be able to go into that facility.’
Arkansas isn’t the first state to discuss guns in stadiums. Washington recently had a similar proposed bill that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, several Alabama schools revised their policies to maintain campus gun bans after a state public-places law passed, Ohio State bans firearms in its stadium despite a state law that allows them, FSU’s been sued for requiring guns to remain locked in cars, and the NFL’s blanket gun ban has so far only been surpassed by a Texas state law allowing off-duty law enforcement to carry.
So can’t the Razorbacks just make their own policy? Well, in 2013, the state decided its colleges should be free to allow faculty and staff to carry on campus. No colleges decided to allow guns, leading to the state Senate moving to force schools to allow employees to carry and then to this law. Private schools can opt out, but there’s no such provision for state schools so far.
From the Democrat-Gazette:
Spokesmen for the state's public colleges and universities that have opposed the measure generally had a muted response to the governor's signing of this legislation.
‘We will work collaboratively with the UA System as it establishes policies, guidelines and practices that align with the law as it affects our campus,’ said Steve Voorhies, a spokesman for the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
‘We have also begun work on an information portal for our campus to answer questions, and share policies and guidelines as they are developed through the UA System,’ he said.
Bill Smith, a spokesman for Arkansas State University at Jonesboro, said, ‘While we have expressed concerns regarding the bill, we recognize the General Assembly has spoken, and we will begin preparations to comply with the law.’