Last week, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed a new law that will force the state’s public colleges and universities to let people with concealed carry permits and minimal training bring hidden, loaded guns onto campus and into sporting events, including the University of Arkansas’ Razorback Stadium. The bill also allows guns in campus daycares, airports, and bars.
Governor Hutchinson chose to sign this bill despite widespread opposition from experts and advocates across the state, including every Arkansas college president, many campus police officers, and the Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. In fact, these laws are incredibly unpopular nationwide: 95% of college presidents and 94% of college faculty oppose guns on campus.
Moms Demand Action volunteers spoke out against the Arkansas bill and even met with the governor twice in an attempt to dissuade him from siding with the gun lobby over key campus stakeholders, law enforcement, and other constituents he was elected to serve. But with the National Rifle Association’s chief lobbyist at his side, Governor Hutchinson held a press conference to announce he would sign this dangerous, unnecessary bill.
And now post-signing, the governor can add Southeastern Conference (SEC) commissioner Greg Sankey to the list of influencers who agree this new law is a terrible idea. On Tuesday, Sankey released a statement requesting the Arkansas legislature move to exempt athletic events and sports arenas like the Razorback Stadium from the bill.
“Given the intense atmosphere surrounding athletic events adding weapons increases safety concerns and could negatively impact the intercollegiate athletics program in several ways, including scheduling, officiating, recruiting and attendance,” Sankey wrote.
I commend the commissioner for speaking out against this reckless law, and I encourage others with powerful platforms to do the same. Given the influence of football in the South, the commissioner’s call for an exemption for athletic events and sports arenas will undoubtedly result in change. And while I’m grateful for his voice, the perks of powerful lobbyists and associations to successfully demand change are reserved for those who can afford it.
Football matters, but so do families.
This bill will still allow guns in places they don’t belong and put our families’ safety at risk. Who will speak up for students and faculty on Arkansas campuses who are afraid fights will lead to gunfire? For the parents who worry guns around depressed or intoxicated students will lead to suicide?
Sadly, everyday Americans don’t have access to powerful lobbyists.
For now, Moms Demand Action volunteers are their voices. And that’s why the work we do — in Arkansas and across the country — is so vitally important. That’s why the women in the red Moms Demand Action T-shirts are at hearings, press conferences, and rallies, and in statehouses and governors’ offices every step of the way.
We will not stand on the sidelines while lawmakers beholden to gun lobbyists fumble the safety of our children.