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Guns at stadiums in Arkansas? SEC and Sun Belt against the idea

Institutions overseeing the state’s two biggest athletic programs oppose firearms in the stands.

SEC Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Last week, the state of Arkansas passed a sweeping law increasing the places in which someone can legally carry a gun. It initially included some hospitals and all college sports stadiums, a facet that was met with pretty understandable hesitation.

Add SEC commissioner Greg Sankey to the list of opponents, via a statement released this week on the Arkansas Razorbacks’ 72,000-seat stadium potentially including firearms.

The University of Arkansas is a valued member of the Southeastern Conference and has a long history of working with public safety officials to provide a safe environment for intercollegiate athletic competition.

It is our desire to see athletic events and sports venues exempted from HB 1249.

Given the intense atmosphere surrounding athletic events, adding weapons increase safety concerns and could negatively impact the intercollegiate athletics program at the University of Arkansas in several ways, including scheduling, officiating, recruiting, and attendance.

HB 1249 creates concerns for the Southeastern Conference and its member institutions. It remains our collective desire to provide a safe environment for student-athletes, coaches, officials and fans, and will continue to closely monitor the status of this legislation.

And Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson, whose conference includes the Arkansas State Red Wolves, agrees.

Schools have opposed the bill, which sprang from a state law granting schools the freedom to allow faculty to carry weapons on campus; all schools opted out of that law. 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.’

Arkansas lawmakers in the state senate amended the law to exclude hospitals and college stadiums, and it heads to the state house next. The state’s governor, Asa Hutchinson, is also on board with the exemption.

The risks of this measure were pretty obvious.

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.