Colleges, universities begin to set campus gun policies

story by Ryan Saylor
rsaylor@thecitywire.com

Despite all of the discussion in the legislature about Act 226, a bill that would allow faculty and staff to carry a concealed firearm on college campuses, NorthWest Arkansas Community College has received a recommendation to its Board of Trustees to exercise the right to ban firearms on campus.

A provision to opt out was a compromise included in the state legislation.

In the recommendation, on which the NWACC Board will vote on Monday night, the school takes a hard stand on the issue, banning guns not only on the college's main campus in Bentonville but also any "instructional centers."

The resolution also states that the Board must vote on renewal each year and signs must be posted throughout campus.

Another Benton County college, John Brown University, has had a policy in place banning the carrying of firearms by staff and students for many years, according to communications director Lucas Roebuck, and would continuing that policy.

"The JBU board of trustees voted at the regular April meeting to continue our prohibition of unauthorized possession of any weapon (including firearms) on campus for faculty, staff and students, based in part on the recommendation of the president's cabinet and our campus security department, which is led by Scott Wanzer, a 27-year veteran of the Tulsa police department," Roebuck said in an e-mail.

Two other universities with campuses in Northwest Arkansas and the Fort Smith area have yet to make a decision on the issue.

At the University of Arkansas System, which has 17 campuses and units including locations in Fayetteville and Fort Smith, the policy is set to be decided at a Board of Trustees meeting later this month, according to UA System Communications Director Ben Beaumont.

"Our Board will have to vote on that and we expect them to consider it at their Board meeting on May 23," he said. "President Bobbitt is taking this time to visit with our Board chairmen and also receive feedback from the administrators of the campuses before making a recommendation."

The decision would be valid for all campuses within the system and would be effective immediately, though Beaumont said the legislation (Act 226) is not necessarily valid until 90 days after the close of the legislative session.

The decision, he said, would be policy for any campus with the UA System.

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At Arkansas Tech University, with campuses in Russellville and Ozark, a decision could also be made on May 23, according to University Relations Director Sam Strasner.

"At this point, the internal discussions are still taking place on what will happen at ATU," he said. "The next meeting is scheduled for May 23 and the agenda for that meeting will be finalized on the 22nd. At that point, we'll know if that matter will be discussed by the Board at that time."

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