Arkansas recently passed HB 1249, which was designed primarily as a law allowing people to hold guns on Arkansas’ college campuses (if they achieved certain requirements). Not a single college in Arkansas wanted this law, but it passed anyway.
The part of it that’s drawn the strongest negative national attention over the past week was the removal of a clause that would have prevented firearms at athletic events, allowing people to take guns into places like Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
When people realized what the Arkansas General Assembly had done, the new law drew negative attention and ridicule from around the country. The Arkansas Senate quickly moved to add an amendment that would prevent firearms from athletic events, UAMS and state hospitals, and Governor Asa Hutchinson has indicated he supports the amendment, but the House has yet to approve the amendment. It’s gotten out of committee, but it has not yet been approved by the floor.
We’ve now reached the point that power players are beginning to use their influence to oppose the legislation.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey issued a statement on Tuesday. I can’t recall the Commissioner making another statement about any state’s legislation in any capacity, so this is not something he did lightly.
Statement from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey concerning Arkansas' gun law (HB 1249): pic.twitter.com/WZqPQkSBwT— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) March 28, 2017
Some are saying UA pushed Sankey to make the statement. That may be true.
UA sources are also pushing the narrative that the law could cost Arkansas its membership in the SEC. It seems like the UA is trying not to get directly involved if it doesn’t have to. I suspect they will if the House doesn’t move quickly.
UA sources fear If law ends up allowing guns in stadiums it could be end of their SEC membership. We'll discuss w/ @CollinsARK at 2pm cst.— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) March 28, 2017
That may seem unlikely to happen since the thought of a school kicking a team out of its conference hasn’t happened in recent memory. After all, Baylor is still in the Big 12. But that’s the Big 12. I don’t know what the SEC would do. They’ve never been in this situation before. None of the league’s states have ever passed a state law directly affecting collegiate sports as absurd as this one.
Sure, bad guys with guns have been able to sneak guns into most places including stadiums for a long time now. The difference is that previously, if security found such a weapon, they could have forced the person to leave the stadium. Under this law, they wouldn’t be able to do that.
And besides, it’s not bad guys most people are worried about with this law, I don’t believe. I’m more concerned about people who are normally fine, who become unhinged in the heat of an intense game on Saturday. If you’ve been to a game in person, you’ve likely seen more of these people in the stands than touchdowns. People like the UA professor who was arrested last year for drunkenly berating Bret Bielema after a game. Under this law, he or someone like him might’ve brought a gun into the stadium. Yes, it’s illegal to drink and carry, but it’s also illegal to drink in public, and we see how many people follow that law around the stadium each week. Extra permissions are unnecessary.
As a result, the league, the school, and other fans are concerned. Not many, but some fans have told me they’re reconsidering renewing tickets. Former Razorback stars like Jarius Wright have said they’ll watch games from home. Other schools will surely use the law to recruit negatively against the Razorbacks. I know I’d be quick to show players headlines about guns and saying “think about what could happen if you fumbled...”.
While no school has been kicked out of a conference in recent memory, the NCAA has acted in response to state laws. The NCAA recently pulled several events out of North Carolina in response to their “bathroom bill”. In fact, the reason Arkansas played its NCAA Tournament games in Greenville, South Carolina, is because those games were originally scheduled to take place in North Carolina, but the NCAA moved them. The NCAA does not hold many of its events in Arkansas, but the state has hosted NCAA Tournament games once upon a time and has hosted women’s SEC Tournaments, gymnastics tournament meets, and baseball tournament games.
I’m not sure what the NCAA and SEC would do if they had to, and hopefully they won’t have to, but let’s not find out.