Skip to main content

Do concealed handguns have any place at college sporting events?

Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson on Wednesday approved a new law that would allow concealed handguns at, among other places, state universities. The law likely won't go into effect until 2018, since eight hours of active-shooter training would be required to bring a handgun to the newly-approved sites and the Arkansas State Police would have until January to design such course.

"This step goes a long way towards recognizing law-abiding people in this state have the right to defend themselves anywhere they have a legal right to be," National Rifle Association executive Chris Cox said at a news conference.

If handguns are allowed on college campuses, this means they would be allowed at college football and basketball games. (Incidentally, the law passed on the same day the SEC announced a rule requiring clear bags at all conference games -- meaning Razorbacks fans could bring a pistol to a game while leaving their purse or diaper bag in the car.) It didn't take long for the idea of a gun-toting group of spectators taking in an emotional game, perhaps after a long day of tailgating, to strike many observers as a dangerous situation. There are 220,000 licensed handgun owners in Arkansas, a state of 2.9 million people.

"People like to have a good time before the game, during the game, people get emotional and angry during the game," Democratic Rep. Greg Leding, whose district includes Fayetteville, told the Associated Press. "I think the idea of introducing loaded weapons into those situations is just ridiculous."

Despite (or perhaps because of) the initial reaction, the law as was changed before it was even implemented -- at least as it pertains to guns as college sporting events.

The final line of this Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story sums up the law as was written perfectly:

"The law as-is would let guns into Razorback Stadium while umbrellas remain banned."

The desire for safety and protection is an admirable one; however, college sporting events are already secure environments thanks to major police presences -- at least at major universities.

The need for handgun protection in the stands was not an issue discussed in the national conversation before Wednesday and, considering the reaction over the past two days, it would seem unlikely that another state would try to put guns in the stands any time soon.