Even Republicans realize they went too far with their new conceal carry bill
Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images
On Wednesday, flanked by fellow Republicans and a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed an expansive new concealed carry law that would allow guns at state colleges, airports, polling places, and stadiums. Mind you, you can’t even bring a backpack or umbrella into a University of Arkansas Razorback football game, but the new law made it perfectly acceptable to be packing heat. It took legislators about 24 hours to realize they’d gone a little too far.
Because of big pushback from the public, the state Senate has already begun carving out exemptions to the law, voting 22–10 on Thursday to not allow guns in stadiums and arenas. This new exemption will have to go to the state House next, and then back to Hutchinson, who upon some reflection, now sees merit to the argument against guns at stadiums.
Greg Leding, a Democrat representing Fayetteville—where the University of Arkansas’ flagship campus resides— was quick to point out immediately after the original bill’s signing on Wednesday, why allowing guns at Razorback games would be especially dangerous.
“Sometimes people have a little bit to drink before they go to the game,” Leding said. "I just think it's a really dumb idea to introduce loaded weapons into that situation."
The National Rifle Association, which pushed for the original, more expansive version of the conceal carry law, is none too pleased about the legislator’s change of heart and vows to stop the bill in the House before it has a chance to get to the governor. “The NRA supports the original legislation as signed into law just yesterday,” NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said Thursday in a statement. “People have the constitutional right to self-defense wherever they are legally allowed to be.”
Despite the NRA’s opposition, even Republicans have realized Leding’s argument is a tough one to counter.
“It's one of those areas where I don't think the value offsets the risk,” Senator Jim Hendren said before Thursday’s vote on the exemptions, according to the AP. The Senate majority leader added, “There's alcohol, there's people getting excited, and so probably I think most people agree that maybe this is one of those areas we ought to think about before we expand the privileges.” Probably something they should have thought about before passing the original bill, but better late than never.