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Most likely, there are concealed-carry weapons on some of the state's college campuses today.

Not everyone welcomes an armed climate on campus, but the guns may be there lawfully -- thanks to full implementation of a 2017 law pushed by state Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville.

Collins made enactment of this law a personal cause, pitching it to fellow lawmakers session after session.

Last year, he finally succeeded. He got strong help from the National Rifle Association and a conservative, Republican-majority Legislature.

What happens now is on him and on other supporters of the legislation that was quite literally forced on the state's institutions of higher learning.

The law applies only to the public colleges and universities, each of which officially opposed the measure when an earlier version of Collins' law allowed the governing boards of the institutions a say in the matter. The earlier law authorized concealed carry on campuses statewide but allowed each campus' board of trustees to opt out annually. Every institution of higher learning affected chose to opt out each year.

The newer version eliminated campus discretion. Now, if an eligible applicant gets an enhanced permit, he or she can carry a gun to class or anywhere else on campus where it is not specifically restricted.

Thankfully, there are at least some restrictions. Concealed carry will be forbidden, for example, at athletic events.

But the guns could be so many other places and in so many hands.

The concern isn't so much about the people who might be licensed to carry a weapon. There is at least a presumption that the state would not license them at all, much less grant them an enhanced license for concealed carry, if the individual applicants weren't properly trained.

The concern is about the unintended consequences of the presence of guns on campus and not necessarily just in the hands of people who are officially permitted to carry them.

A gun that gets to campus lawfully can be stolen or taken away by someone not permitted to have it. And then there are the potential gun-related accidents, involving even the best-intentioned actors.

Keep in mind that law enforcement people, with rare exception, opposed this law and many testified against it. They worry about active shooter situations and whether an assailant can be distinguished from other people with guns.

Charlie Collins' prime argument for concealed-carry weapons on a campus related to that same active shooter premise. He is convinced the possibility that anyone might be carrying a gun is enough to cause a potential shooter to stay away from that campus.

Regardless of the arguments for and against it, Collins' law is now in full effect -- whatever the consequences.

Implementation did get delayed for a time while the Arkansas State Police designed a training program for concealed-carry license holders to get an "enhanced" permit to allow them to carry on campus and in some other places where they could not previously carry.

But the delays are over.

More than 70 Arkansas concealed-carry instructors are now trained to teach the enhanced curriculum.

And the recently trained trainers were expected to offer the required eight-hour training starting within the last couple of weeks.

A couple of them told reporters, as the trainers completed their own training, that they had waiting lists of gun owners wanting to secure the enhanced permits.

The trainers intended to offer single eight-hour sessions, allowing applicants to qualify for their enhanced licenses the same day they start their training.

That surely happened in the week just past. The bulge under someone's jacket or the extra weight of a purse might just be a gun. Beware.

Commentary on 02/14/2018

Print Headline: Load'em up!

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