State schools to carry weapons

A new law currently before the Arkansas state legislature is sparking discussion on campus about John Brown University’s concealed carry policy.

House Bill 1077 is the second bill concerning guns that Arkansas representative Charlie Collins has brought before the state legislature. If passed, the bill will require state colleges and universities to allow staff and faculty with concealed carry permits to carry while on campus, according to Arkansas News. Private colleges and universities can opt out.

Scott Wanzer, director of campus safety, said that if the bill passes, John Brown will choose to opt out.

“Simplistically, it appears that we don’t want guns on campus, but it’s deeper than that,” Wanzer said. “The issue is not guns on campus. The issue is qualification.”

Currently, Wanzer is the only employee of the University who is allowed to carry a firearm. Wanzer said that the decision stemmed from long discussions with University administration.

“We would like to be able to choose who carries,” Wanzer said, citing three criteria for the privilege: experience, relationship with administration and accountability.

If Bill 1077 is passed, public institutions like the University of Arkansas must allow faculty to carry with as little as eight hours of training. Wanzer said those qualifications are not enough.

“The safety of everyone on campus, to me, is more important than the individual right to carry a gun,” he said. “We shouldn’t sacrifice individual safety for one person’s preference to be armed.”

In a high-stakes situation involving a gunman, inexperienced civilians could do more harm than good, Wanzer said. They may not consider as carefully things that he’s been trained to see, such as proper target identification and the risks of friendly fire.

That having been said, Wanzer is not opposed to guns on campus. He is currently discussing with administration the possibilities of arming a second campus safety officer.

If a bill was passed sometime in the future requiring John Brown University to allow staff and even students to carry on campus, Wanzer said he would be much more comfortable with 60 hours of training, much like the training done for the teachers of one Clarksville public school in 2013.

In response to the Sandy Hook shooting of the same year, Clarksville public school officials allowed twenty teachers and administrators to go through in-depth security training, training that involved running dangerous scenarios as well as the usual concealed-carry training, according to the New York Daily News. Clarksville administrators hoped that this training would not only allow teachers to carry, but to minimize any possible danger from friendly fire.

Arkansas is currently one of 23 states that allows individual universities to make the decision about concealed carry, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only seven states have provisions requiring public universities to allow concealed carry on campus.