UAFS chancellor dislikes proposed campus gun law

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

A proposed bill that would allow certain faculty and staff to carry a concealed firearm on college and university campuses does not sit well with at least one chancellor in the University of Arkansas System.

Paul Beran, chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, said he would be in favor of the system using an amendment in the bill that would allow the UA System to opt out of allowing staffers to carry on campus.

"I'm going to be loyal and support whatever the board decides we need to do. (But) as the chancellor do I think it would be a good thing for the campus? No, I do not,” Beran said.

He said the campus has a good police force that responds to incidents quickly. And although the bill, HB1243, requires training for any staff that wants to carry, he said it would not benefit his campus.

"We've not had any incidents where people, civilians with minimal training, would have been an asset in any situations that we've had here," Beran said. "I think it could put people at greater risk."

Should there be an active shooter or other risk to campus, the chancellor said an armed staff would not be an advantage.

"When you have an incident on campus, that is a crisis incident that involves gun fire of any kind, then it's going to complicate the situation considerably to have multiple people in civilian clothes with guns drawn," Beran added.

UAFS freshman Meagan Crosby of Charleston said she backed Beran's sentiments on the matter of arming faculty and staff.

"Even though the teachers have a gun, what happens if a student gets control of it," she said.

Fellow freshman Kayla Crissens, also of Charleston, said while HB1243 may provide more protection for campuses, it also comes with just as much risk.

"Gun control needs to be more regulated," Crissens added.

Students at the University of Arkansas' Fayetteville campus have also been speaking out against the bill.

On Feb. 12, the Associated Student Government (ASG) voted against a measure that would have supported HB1243.

In a statement Feb. 13 from the group Arkansans Against Guns on Campus, ASG Sen. Ashton Williams said if passed, the bill would put staff members at colleges across the state at risk.

"You're essentially putting a red dot on every faculty and staff member's head," Williams said.

But UAFS junior Blake Dobbins of Fort Smith had a different stand on the issue.

Dobbins, who recently attended a concealed carry class, said arming faculty and staff would be a benefit for students.

"I would rather show up (to class) knowing someone is carrying a gun," he said.

Dobbins added that if the law allows for concealed carry, the university system should not opt out.

He said it is simply a matter of protection.

"A professor wouldn't go out of his way to find a shooter," Dobbins explained. "The reaction is to protect yourself."

Beran emphasized that before any decisions could be made, the bill would first have to be passed.

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"The actual conversation and the reaction to it is premature at this point," Beran said.

HB1243, which was sponsored by State Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville, passed the Arkansas House of Representatives on Friday.

Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said the governor would likely sign the bill should it pass the Senate.

"He is more comfortable with it now that it has the local option built into it," DeCample said.

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