By Chase Reavis
The Razorback Reporter
Those who want to carry a handgun on Arkansas campuses must be able to shoot straight, hang onto their weapon and defend themselves, according to the state police preliminary draft of training procedures.
The Arkansas State Police Department released the first version of required training procedures necessary for licensed weapons owners to get the enhanced permit that will allow concealed carry on campus sometime next year. That was Oct. 11.
Arkansas State Police are taking public comment about proposed draft changes until Nov. 10, but as of Oct. 24, they had received minimal response, Bill Sadler, Arkansas State Police public information officer, said in an email.
The training program is projected to be in place within the first three months of 2018, Sadler said. The enhanced carry license will be valid for five years, according to the draft.
Enhanced carry applicants must complete eight hours of instruction proctored by training instructors across the state, according to the draft. Training will be offered at all concealed carry courses. All registered concealed carry instructors must complete an exam regarding the enhanced training license by Jan. 1, 2018. If an instructor cannot complete the exam, the instructor’s registration will be revoked, according to the draft.
In the eight-hour course, instructors must explain the rights and responsibilities of having the enhanced license as well as where carriers cannot take handguns. Applicants will undergo self-defense and weapon-retention training.
They also must score at least a 70 percent on a firing-accuracy test, which they get three tries to complete, according to the draft. A firing-accuracy test is not included in the standard concealed carry training but was added to the enhanced training program with the new revisions.
The firing-accuracy test is meant to “ensure the license applicant can safely handle and correctly fire the weapon,” Sadler said.
Instructors also will go over emergency situations, how to respond to police officers during these situations and the difference between firearm possession and storage, according to the draft.
In preparation for concealed carry on campus, UA officials have acted as panelists for three forums regarding the new law; two of them have been on campus. One was at a Faculty Senate meeting Oct. 26 in Old Main.
Faculty members asked about their own safety as well as the safety of UA students on campus once the training program is implemented.
UA professor Bill McComas told the panel he felt very unsafe that students in his class could have handguns.
“I don’t quite understand how I can do my job if I feel unsafe,” McComas said.
At the forum and at the two before it, UA professors asked panelists whether they are allowed to ask students not to carry concealed handguns in their classrooms or into their offices. At the first two forums, panelists did not have an answer.
Mark Rushing, assistant vice chancellor of University Relations, answered the question at the Faculty Senate meeting.
“You can state your preference as to whether you would like firearms to be allowed in your area or your office or classroom or not, but you cannot prohibit them,” Rushing said.
UA junior Trystan Spears plans to get an enhanced carry permit after he turns 21 years old in January, but even then, he wants to respect his professors’ wishes about when to carry a gun.
“If I am going into someone’s home, I respect their wishes,” Spears said.
If Spears completes the training program and receives the enhanced carry license, he plans on keeping his handgun in his vehicle more often than on his person, he said.
Spears keeps all sorts of tools in his vehicle, and his handgun will be “another tool in my toolbox,” he said.
Licensees are allowed to store their handguns on or about their person and in their vehicles, according to the draft.
After Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed the law earlier this year, Arkansas State Police began drafting rules.
The bill was opposed by UA Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz. He released a statement Jan. 23, saying the proposal threatened campus safety and the retention of students, faculty and staff.
UA Police Department officials would not comment on the draft because it is not a finalized training program, UAPD Capt. Matt Mills said in an email.
Mills had not suggested changes to Arkansas State Police as of Oct. 30, he said.