A pro-gun group is up in arms so to speak because some Arkansas colleges prohibit students from carrying concealed weapons on campus. State law allows concealed weapons on campus, but not in college and university buildings and events. The gun group, Arkansas Carry, demands that the state Higher Education Department end this discrimination against gun-toting students. If others may carry guns, so should students, the group says.
UPDATE: The state Higher Education Department has responded to the letter. The gun group has essentially done a selective reading of the law. The Higher Ed response notes that the attorney general's opinion on which the gun group relies also cites statutory authority for colleges and universities — and anyone else exercising physical control over a place — to prohibit handguns on their property, concealed or not, by posting a written notice of the prohibition.
LETTER TO DEPARTMENT OF HIGHER EDUCATION
My name is Steve D. Jones; I am the chairman of Arkansas Carry, a non-profit firearms rights group based solely in Arkansas.
I am writing in reference to a confusing discrepancy which currently exists between Arkansas law and the policies of the state’s public institutions of higher learning. Arkansas law presently allows all Concealed Handgun Carry License (CHCL) holders to carry handguns on the campus and other property of universities and colleges, except into buildings or any college or university event (I am attaching a copy of then-Attorney General Mike Beebe’s official opinion on this subject.). However, all public institutions of higher learning in Arkansas do not follow this state law; they ban the possession of firearms on any property of the college or university through student policies. This incongruity allows Arkansas citizens with CHCL permits to exercise their Second Amendment rights, but punishes law-abiding students with the threat of expulsion, even though they are not breaking state law.
Arkansas Carry asks the Arkansas Department of Higher Education bring university and college policies in line with current state law, allowing students to carry on campus, in parking lots and other places which state law allows. Updating these policies will enable the most law-abiding students in Arkansas to follow state law without confusion and without having their rights infringed upon.
Please contact me if you have questions.
Thank you very much for your time spent on this matter,
Steve D. Jones
HIGHER EDUCATION DEPARTMENT RESPONSE
Thanks for the inquiry. Please note that the AG opinion cited in your letter indicates that institutions can prohibit handguns on campus — concealed or not. — Jim
Per the opinion, Arkansas AG opinion 2003-372,
“ An important limitation upon the conclusion discussed above is that it does not apply to colleges and universities that have chosen to prohibit the carrying of handguns onto college or university property by the posting of signs to that effect in accordance with A.C.A. section 5-73-306(b). Even though the statutes, as worded, permit the carrying of concealed handguns onto certain portions of college or university property as discussed above, colleges and universities have the authority to prohibit the carrying of concealed handguns onto any part of their property. This authority arises out of the provisions of A.C.A. section 5-73-306(b), which states: (b)(1)(A) In addition to the places enumerated in this section, the carrying of a concealed handgun may be disallowed in any place at the discretion of the person or entity exercising control over the physical location of the place by placing at each entrance to the location a written notice clearly readable at a distance of not less than ten feet (10’) that “carrying a handgun is prohibited”. (B) If the location does not have a roadway entrance, there must be a written notice placed anywhere upon the premises, except that there must be at least one (1) written notice posted within every three (3) acres of a location with no roadway entrance.
If an institution has opted to prohibit the carrying of handguns on all campus property in accordance with this provision, no handguns will be permitted on that institution’s property even if carried by persons who have concealed handgun permits.”
Dr. Jim Purcell, Director
Arkansas Department of Higher Education