By Steve Barnes
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Reuters) - Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Arkansas legislature sent a measure to the governor on Wednesday that expands the number of places where permit holders can carry concealed weapons in the state, including the Capitol building.
Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson has said he will sign the bill that has been backed by national gun-rights groups.
The measure authorizes anyone with a state-issued gun permit who obtains a few hours of additional firearms training to carry a concealed handgun on commercial premises, sporting events and in government buildings, where the weapons were previously banned.
Courtrooms and prisons are exempt, as are public schools. Churches and bars can choose to prohibit guns, but must post a notice to that effect on their doors.
The bill started out in the legislature as a measure that would have allowed the carrying of handguns onto state college campuses under certain conditions, with backers saying armed and trained civilians could help prevent a mass shooting on campus.
The bill was met with near unanimous opposition by college administrators and campus police departments, who said it endangered student safety.
The bill was altered and became the bill sent to the governor.
Eight other states allow concealed weapons on campus, and a ninth, Tennessee, permits licensed faculty to do so, according to the National Rifle Association.
The minimum age to obtain a concealed weapons permit in Arkansas is 21 unless the applicant is a member of the armed services. Almost 220,000 of Arkansas’s approximately 3 million residents have active concealed carry permits.
(Reporting by Steve Barnes; Additional reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Rigby)