Greg Harton: It's not complicated

College doesn’t need to imagine all gun scenarios

It should come as no surprise Northwest Arkansas Community College trustees did last week as they've done for four years by voting to ban people with concealed carry permits from bringing handguns onto campus.

State Rep. Charlie Collins' new law allowing concealed handguns for specially trained permit holders on campus won't take effect until Sept. 1, so the trustees are simply maintaining the status quo. Many campus leaders across the state want nothing but the status quo, but the Legislature thought differently.

Come Sept. 1 any concealed carry permit holder can take new training to earn an enhanced permit. That permit will allow him to carry a handgun in several places where concealed handguns were formerly banned. People with a non-enhanced permit won't be legally authorized to carry their weapons in these newly authorized locations.

The community college has taken the change seriously, appointing a task force to review the circumstances in which the college might need to adopt new policies and procedures. They're wise to think through the implications of the new legislation. But it also appears as though they're working themselves into a lather by presuming the college needs to make a ton of adjustments to prepare for concealed carry.

At last week's meeting, college President Evelyn Jorgenson gave an example. "For example, what happens if we are taking students on a field trip and the place we're going to does not allow guns, yet they're allowed to carry guns here," Jorgenson said.

The answer is pretty simple: Nothing.

It's the permit holder's responsibility -- and always has been -- to be sure he complies with all the limitations under the law. That's something people willing to get a permit are generally prepared to do. They tend to make every effort to stay within the law.

Act 562 spells out any permit holder carrying a gun onto a campus is making a "personal choice" and is "not immune from personal liability with respect to possession or use of a concealed handgun." The act also declares a college is immune from liability for monetary damages related to a permitted employee's use or failure to use a concealed handgun.

Preparedness is admirable, but it will not be the community college's job to manage concealed carry permit holders and ensure they're living up to their responsibilities.

A couple of weeks back I attended a session at the community college where faculty, staff and students discussed their concerns. One instructor wanted to ask students to voluntarily confide in her about their plans to carry. It would allow her, she said, to know the circumstances as leader of her classroom should a crisis break out.

But that's all for naught, because permit holders can carry one day and not the next. If a crisis does break out, it's entirely the permit holder's decision whether to take the serious step of pulling his weapon out. And he is not obligated in the least to act as a law enforcement officer might, nor should he.

Concealed carry is about personal defense for the permit holder and, in certain circumstances, those around him or her. No college should expect otherwise nor should it try to imagine every scenario in which it feels a need to mother those who choose to carry on campus.

The very nature of concealed carry is that people should never know an individual's personal weapon is present. So the college really has one responsibility under the law: Observe it.

Commentary on 04/17/2017

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