POCAHONTAS, AR Jan. 31 â€” On Friday, January 31, the Arkansas Division of Higher Education (ADHE) approved Black River Technical College to offer a 2-year Associate of Applied Science in Gunsmithing Technology, a 1-year Technical Certificate in Gunsmithing Technology, and three 1-semester certificates of proficiency in Gunsmithing Technology.
â€œBRTC is excited to offer credentials in a craft that has long been a part of American history and culture,â€ said Dr. Martin Eggensperger, BRTC president. â€œThis trade has been responsible for significant historic technological advancements. We believe that the skills developed and shared through our curriculum will not only make our graduates unique to the firearms and munitions industry, but also increase the overall economic development opportunities for our region and state.â€
Currently, only six gunsmithing college-based programs exist in the United States. The closest program to Northeast Arkansas is in southcentral Oklahoma at Murray State College.
Governor Asa Hutchinson is working hard to make Arkansas the number one ammunition and gun manufacturing state in the United States. His support has been vital to the creation of Black River Technical Collegeâ€™s program.
Initially, BRTCâ€™s Gunsmithing Technology will offer an Associate of Applied Science and Technical Certificate in riflesmithing. However, three tracks for the 1-semester Certificates of Proficiency will be offered: riflesmithing, shotgunsmithing, and pistolsmithing. Background checks and age restrictions will be required for all potential gunsmithing students. Individuals must be age 18 to be a student of rifle- and shotgunsmithing and age 21 to be a student in pistolsmithing.
Curriculum will be integrated around BRTCâ€˜s existing machine tool, welding, and business programs. In addition, safety, regulation, and direction will be offered by BRTCâ€˜s Law Enforcement Training Academy (LETA). BRTCâ€˜s gunsmithing program will be the only one like it in the nation to make law enforcement inclusion part of the curriculum.
“Black River Technical College (BRTC) has been providing the highest quality education and training in the areas of machining and welding for over 40 years,â€ said Dr. Brad Baine, BRTCâ€™s Vice President of Academic Affairs. â€œThe new gunsmithing program will allow BRTC to combine these two technical areas and properly train men and women to become true craftsmen in the field of gunsmithing.â€
With the increase in school shootings and the attention to gun violence, BRTC will produce gunsmiths who are not only aware of law-enforcement needs but understand the red flags which law enforcement find essential in reducing gun violence.
Supporting the BRTC gunsmithing proposal at ADHE were Senator Jane English, Senator James Sturch, Steve Sparks and Tonya Haas, both from the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Gene Higginbotham with United States Senator John Boozmanâ€˜s office, Jay Sherrod with U.S. Congressman Rick Crawfordâ€™s office, NEA Intermodal director Graycen Bigger. Several key BRTC staff and faculty members also attended.
Advising for the program will begin in February for the first class will begin in Fall 2020. Information may be found on the BRTC website. Admission to the program will require a federal background check, age restrictions, admission to BRTC, and other safeguards as listed on the BRTC gunsmithing page. This program will be open to enrollment nationwide.
PHOTO: L-R from back: Jared Bassham, BRTC Law Enforcement Training Academy instructor; Gary Meier, Machine Tool instructor; Dr. Brad Baine, Vice President for Academic Affairs; Gene Higginbotham, for U.S. Senator John Boozman; Jay Sherrod for U.S. Congressman Rick Crawford; Sissy Gray, Director of Assessment & Accreditation; Phillip Dickson, Dean of Business & Tech Education
L-R from front: Jack Thomas, Project Manager for Arkansas Economic Development Commission (AEDC); Steve Sparks, Director of Existing Business Resources, AEDC; Tonya Haas, Northeast Arkansas Regional Manager, AEDC; Senator Jane English; Maria Markham, ADHE Director; GraycenBigger, Executive Director of NEA Intermodal; Dr. Martin Eggensperger, BRTC President; Karen Liebhaber, Vice President of Institutional Advancement.
Black River Technical College is a 2-year community college in Pocahontas and Paragould, which offers associates degrees and certificates in general education and technical and career education. The College houses one of the stateâ€™s law enforcement training academies (LETA) and fire science academies. BRTC has 2,800 full- and part-time students.