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Concealed carry weapons are coming to Arkansas' college campuses, but their lawful carry will be delayed somewhat.

University of Arkansas Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz recently reminded the campus community in Fayetteville that a pair of new state laws (Acts 562 and 859) go into effect on Sept. 1.

The laws can't be fully implemented, however, until the Arkansas State Police creates the necessary training for an "enhanced" certification to carry a concealed weapon. And, the first candidates must secure those permits before they may lawfully take a gun to campus.

The certification requirement is part of the controversial legislation successfully championed by state Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, in the last regular legislative session.

He had been trying for years to get the Legislature to authorize concealed carry on campus (as it has in other public places). With strong backing from the National Rifle Association, he got the law passed on his latest attempt.

The requirement for up to eight hours of enhanced training came with it.

The Arkansas State Police must develop the training program that is intended to equip qualifying enhanced permit-holders to deal with an active-shooter scenario.

The State Police have 120 days after the effective date of the law to design the program. Bill Sadler, spokesman for the agency, expects State Police will take every one of those 120 days to sign off on a certification program.

And, he said, the whole process could take longer, since the newly promulgated rules may require legislative review, too.

Plus, the people the State Police authorize to do the training for concealed carry must be trained themselves on the enhanced certification. Then and only then can any candidate take the training and get certified to carry a weapon on campus.

There's another challenge, too.

Remember how the law was amended to keep sports fans from carrying weapons into a stadium or other arena?

Concealed carry at sporting events may only be prohibited if the institution has an approved security plan in place for the venue.

The process and requirements are still being worked out for such plans. And the planning gets complicated when they're trying to secure, say, a golf course or a cross-country race route, not just a closed-in stadium or arena.

So there's good reason for expecting a delay in implementation of the new laws.

That delay is also the source of considerable relief for those who never really wanted to see more guns on college campuses -- unless they're in the hands of trained police officers.

But thanks to Charlie Collins and other supporters, the delay is only temporary.

Eventually, the security plans will be made and approved. The enhanced certification process will be cleared and the training made available. And there will be plenty of people who seek the permits, including many who truly believe as Collins does that they'll be making the campuses safer for all.

Others still worry about the mere presence of guns and the potential for their misuse, unintended or otherwise.

While the debate about guns on campus won't ever be over, Arkansas law will allow them to be there.

The University of Arkansas, like the other campuses in the state, is wisely preparing for the change.

Chancellor Steinmetz' email to students last week explained the coming changes and promised notice to the campus when the permit process actually is complete and full implementation begins.

In the meantime, the university is offering an online resource to answer questions and further explain the new concealed carry laws.

Check out www.safety.uark.edu for information, including frequently asked questions from the perspective of students, faculty, staff, parents and visitors to the campus.

The site details the law and makes it clear, among other things, that "concealed" means concealed.

Anyone with the necessary permit must keep a weapon, even a holstered gun, concealed except in a life-threatening situation. Weapons must be somewhere completely out of sight.

The university suggests someone who sees a weapon being displayed should report it to campus police. If it is being displayed in a threatening manner, the call should go to 911.

"Carry" also means carry at the university. The only place on campus a weapon may be stored is in a locked and unattended motor vehicle on university or public property. Nowhere else. Not in a locker, a filing cabinet, a locked car.

One other point jumps out from the university guidelines. The law will be strictly enforced.

Not only are those who violate the new state laws subject to legal action under the laws themselves, university employees who violate them may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Students, too, could face disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from the university.

Of course, no one needs worry for a while yet. Implementation of the new state laws is months away.

Commentary on 08/16/2017

Print Headline: Guns stay home, for now

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