Arkansas gun laws need simplifying, attorney general and lawmakers say

By: - August 22, 2023 8:00 pm
A person exercises their right to carry a firearm openly during a 2019 demonstration in Columbus, Ohio. (Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

A person exercises their right to carry a firearm openly during a 2019 demonstration in Columbus, Ohio. (Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images)

Attorney General Tim Griffin said Tuesday he is working with three Republican state lawmakers to address Arkansas’ “overcomplicated gun laws.”

“At their core, our gun laws provide strong protection for our Second Amendment rights. But over the years, they have been adopted in a haphazard fashion, and they are currently a mess,” Griffin said in a press release. “They’re often hard to understand, and we need to fix that.”

Griffin said he, Sens. Ricky Hill of Cabot and Terry Rice of Waldron and Rep. Howard Beaty of Crossett will explore how best to simplify the state’s gun laws.

Hill told the Advocate Tuesday that “we decided to get together and see if we can’t figure something out” to bring clarity to the hodgepodge of gun laws.

Rice, co-chair of the Arkansas Legislative Council, said in the press release that Arkansas gun laws “have been amended in such a patchwork manner as to make them often difficult to read cohesively.”

Griffin told the Advocate Tuesday’s announcement doesn’t mark the creation of a new task force or working group. Rather, “it’s a public expression of my desire to work with the legislature on a problem that needs addressing.”

Witnesses at a July legislative subcommittee hearing raised similar concerns about interpretation of various laws affecting guns, firearms training and the ability to carry weapons in public. 

Arkansas effectively became an open-carry state for handguns in 2021 when it repealed a law requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Because of continued confusion over when permits are required, lawmakers passed Act 777 this year, amending the law to clarify that concealed carry licensing is needed only to allow reciprocity for licensees who travel to other states that require a permit to carry a concealed handgun. 

Act 777 also makes clear that a person is not required to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun in Arkansas. But other laws on where and when weapons are prohibited have created gray areas and even some confusion among firearms trainers, law enforcement officials, hunters and game wardens, testimony at the July legislative subcommittee meeting revealed.

In Tuesday’s press release, Secretary of Public Safety and Director of the Arkansas State Police Mike Hagar said law enforcement officers “are asked to enforce laws that are confusing or duplicative. I thank the attorney general for committing to help bring clarity to our laws.”

Griffin said in his press release that he made simplifying gun laws a priority when he took office. The “recent subcommittee hearing gave voice to a lot of the same concerns I had. When I was asked by Senator Hill to work on this, I was happy to join the effort.”

In the past decade, he said, state leaders have requested two dozen opinions from his office on gun laws.

“There is no reason why we can’t have gun laws that make sense without seeking the advice of a lawyer,” he said in the press release.

Hill said he’s looking forward to hearing from citizens from all corners of Arkansas about ways to simplify and strengthen state gun law.

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Sonny Albarado
Sonny Albarado

In his 50-year career, Sonny Albarado has been an investigations editor, a business editor, a city editor, an environmental reporter and a government reporter at newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. He retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2020 after serving as projects editor for 12 ½ years and returned to professional journalism in 2022 to lead the Arkansas Advocate. He is a former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and a current member of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.