By Suzi Parker
LITTLE ROCK, Ark (Reuters) - Faculty and staff members in Arkansas are one step closer to legally carrying concealed handguns on the state's college campuses.
The Republican-controlled Arkansas state Senate voted 31 to 4 on Monday to allow colleges and universities to decide themselves whether to allow concealed weapons on their campuses. The bill previously passed the Republican-controlled Arkansas state House 70 to 11.
The bill now goes to Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat. He is expected to sign the legislation.
The governing board of individual institutions will decide annually whether to allow guns on campus. Many state universities have already said they would not allow concealed weapons on campuses.
Discussion of gun control and gun rights has surged in the United States since a gunman shot dead 26 people at a Connecticut elementary school in December, 20 of them first-graders.
Arkansas would join 23 states that allow individual colleges or universities to decide whether to ban or allow concealed carry of weapons on campus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some states also allow students to carry concealed weapons.
Earlier this month, Beebe signed the Church Protection Act, which allows individual places of worship to decide whether to allow concealed handguns and who could carry them. Last week, Arkansas became the latest state to exempt from public disclosure the names and zip codes of gun owners.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Eric Walsh)