Arkansas lawmakers on Aug. 24, 2023, authorized a one-year study of the state’s sometimes confusing gun laws, starting in October. (Ron Bailey/Getty Images)
Arkansas Second Amendment activists and county sheriffs called on a legislative panel Monday to create a task force to provide guidance to firearms instructors and citizens regarding state gun law.
Gary Epperson, president of Gun Owners of Arkansas, told lawmakers that qualifications for becoming a firearms instructor who can teach the course for a concealed-carry permit vary and said subpar training could be used against the state in lawsuits. He also expressed concern about a lack of accountability in the state’s firearms permitting program run by Arkansas State Police.
Jan Morgan, founder of 2A Women and an unsuccessful Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2022, echoed Epperson and said some firearms instructors who offer concealed-carry permit training wrongly tell clients that they’ll violate federal law if they travel to another state without a valid Arkansas permit.
Arkansas repealed its law requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon in public in 2021, and this year amended the law to clarify that concealed carry licensing is solely to allow reciprocity for licensees who travel to other states that require a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Act 777 also specifies that a person is not required to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun in Arkansas.
But there remain gray areas, witnesses told the Game and Fish/State Police subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council, and there’s a need to clarify some overlapping and piecemeal laws and regulations.
Cleburne County Sheriff Chris Brown, a firearms trainer himself, said the current program for a basic license doesn’t require teaching the use of force, when to use a weapon or when to leave rather than confront someone, all of which is required for an enhanced license. Yet, all of those topics are the ones people are most interested in.
“It’s a big ask, but I would like to see a new program,” Brown said.
After the hearing, Brown told the Advocate that Act 777 provides an opportunity to reevaluate the licensing program and start a conversation about how to implement it.
“Citizens desire to have something clear and concise they can understand,” Sebastian County Sheriff Hobe Runion told the lawmakers.
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After more than two hours of testimony, subcommittee co-chair Rep. Josh Miller, R-Heber Springs, said he wasn’t necessarily in favor of creating another committee, but acknowledged the need for the parties involved to get together to “get past these disparities” in the law.
“It kind of makes us look like we can’t get our heads together,” he said, “and I think we can.”
He suggested that Arkansas State Police Director Col. Mike Hagar might convene a group of interested people under his office’s guidance to review what can be done.
Miller said he will call another meeting soon and urged everyone to use common sense and talk with one another meanwhile.
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