So it’s come to this.
On February 2nd, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed HB 1249 (now Act 562), and forwarded it on to the Arkansas Senate, who in turn, after many debates and added amendments, passed it. It was ultimately signed in its final form by Governor Hutchinson on March 22nd. For those who are not familiar with HB 1249, it is the highly controversial bill introduced by State Representative Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) that started out by allowing public university faculty and staff to conceal carry on the campus within the State of Arkansas. After some debate in the Senate, the some things within the bill changed (Rep. Collins explains it well in this interview with Bo Mattingly), and wording was changed to add anyone with a concealed carry license to be able to carry on campus, and the most controversial part, allow CCL holders to carry at sporting events.
The passing of this bill has caused an uproar across the state and even the nation. The most fervent argument put forth by the naysayers is that it is unwise to allow guns at events with both high propensity of unpredictable emotion as well as a liberal amount of alcohol use. It has garnered negative responses from both the SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey and Sun Belt Commissioner Karl Benson. Because of this negative attention, the Arkansas Senate wrote and a passed an amendment to the original bill in SB 724. This bill would exempt sporting events from having to follow Act 562.
This issue is intriguing on many grounds, of which two I would like to explore. What is the constitutionality of HB 1249, now Act 562? Is it legal for the State of Arkansas to do this? Is it legal for the State of Arkansas, and in extent every state in the nation, to not allow guns on public campuses?
The other issue I would like to explore is the economics of defense itself. This is used by many pro-gun advocates in defense of concealed carry and open carry. If sporting events are exempt, is the security provided at these events adequate enough to protect those that go to these events if the worse to arise and mass shooting happen?
The 2nd amendment is without question the mostly hotly debated portion of the US Constitution in recent years. Those who oppose it use a wide range of arguments from belief that it is being misinterpreted and only the “militia” was intended to own guns to the notion that the Founders never imagined that guns as powerful as those which exist today would ever exist at all and that it is outdated. As of current date, the US Supreme Court (USSC) has not accepted either of those arguments.
One way gun controllers have got around this is to use gun control laws at the state and local level. For many years this was a successful strategy until two recent rulings by the USSC that have overturned many of these regulations. While DC v. Heller is the more well-known case and laid the ground work for future cases, the case most pertinent to the gun debate boiling over in Arkansas is McDonald v. Chicago. In the ruling the USSC ruled that the 2nd amendment right to “keep and bear arms” was incorporated under the 14th amendment’s Due Process Clause. While detractors will state that both Heller and McDonald leave exemptions for certain restrictions, including schools, if one were to take an original interpretation of the both the Constitution and the more directly the 2nd and 14th amendments, it can only be determined that no government entity has the right to restrict an individual’s right to self-defense, especially on ground that are publicly owned.
So even if SB 724 were to pass and sporting events exempt, the incorporation clause has still left open opportunity to not only get it overturned in the State of Arkansas, but in every State in the Union.
The Economics of Defense
The other area I would like to cover is strictly philosophical. One of the main detracting statements made by those supporting SB 724 is the presence of security at the sporting events that are to be exempted. It is true that many local police departments, sheriff and city alike, contract the use of their officers in security of sporting events in the State of Arkansas. But one must ask the question: is there enough security? Can a centralized security force even provide the amount of security as decentralized, civilian security?
If one was being generous, one could say that at the average Arkansas Razorback football game you would have approximately 50 officers there for security. At a heavily attended game, such as Alabama or LSU, that’s about a 1:1500 cop to attendee ratio. You’re looking at about the same ratio for both basketball and baseball games as well. And again, this is probably overstating the amount of security personnel at these events.
Now I’m going to say some things here that many of those who will agree with me on this gun issue won’t like: cops are notoriously unreliable. They are the most overweight profession in the US. Police departments filter out applicants who have a high IQs. They have continuously made mistakes (such raiding the wrong house) that result in innocent deaths. They’ve even been known to shoot the occasional bystander or nine.
But those who object to the guns will still not relent even it is proven that the security personnel isn’t always reliable. “Now any drunk can just walk into the stadium with a gun,” they’ll say. This is an untrue statement. For one you can lose your license if you are caught drinking while carrying. Secondly it costs a fair amount of money to get a Concealed Carry Permit, and those who do are not ones to jeopardize this over a sporting event.
The largest misconception about the gun debate is that passing SB 724 will keep guns out of sporting events. It’s true that most “law-abiding” citizens will follow the law pertaining to no guns due to the loss of license if caught. But will that someone who is hell-bent on a spree murder? As history of spree murders has shown, that is not even remotely the case. The vast majority of spree murders have happened in “No Gun Zones” such as schools, colleges, or the Aurora movie theater. It has been proven that if one wants to commit a spree murder, No Gun Zones have been powerless to stop them. And since I’ve covered the fact that security isn’t as extra as one would believe at sporting events, it is hard to believe that they would be able to stop a spree shooting should it happen.
All of this is being said while ignoring one simple thing: universities can’t physically stop someone from bringing a concealed weapon into a facility because they don’t check for them. Patrons don’t go through metal detectors or get wanded when walking into Razorback Stadium or Bud Walton Arena. Ninety-nine percent of the coolers brought into the Hog Trough at Baum Stadium aren’t checked. So by keeping law-abiding citizens from carrying, the universities put more of a risk upon patrons than otherwise.
Economically speaking, it is more effective to have a decentralized, citizen-based security than it is a centralized, police-based security because you have more opportunities to stop a shooter.
What Should Happen
Of course the reality is that the chance of a spree shooting at any of these events is highly unlikely, whether concealed carry is allowed or not. Spree shootings aren’t as prevalent as the many in the media and on the gun control side would like you to believe, and most gun murders themselves involve the violence-inducing War on Drugs than concealed carry owners. If SB 724 is passed, you won’t see an increase in violence at sporting events. And if SB 742 is rejected, you won’t see an increase in violence at sporting events. So what should the Arkansas legislature do? As they should always do, err on the side of liberty and individualism, and reject the collective.