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)
A legislative panel on Thursday authorized a study of Arkansas firearms and concealed carry laws that will recommend legislation to clarify overlapping and sometimes conflicting gun rules.
The Arkansas Legislative Council’s Executive Subcommittee adopted the call for the study, directing the council’s Game & Fish/State Police Subcommittee to carry out the review. The executive panel expects to receive a report with recommendations by Oct. 1, 2024.
The study authorization now goes to the full Legislative Council for final action.
The creation of the study comes two days after Attorney General Tim Griffin announced he would be working with three Republican lawmakers — Sens. Ricky Hill of Cabot and Terry Rice of Waldron and Rep. Howard Beaty of Crossett — to explore how best to simplify the state’s gun laws.
Hill has been working behind the scenes to address concerns raised publicly at a Game & Fish/State Police Subcommittee in July about the state’s gun laws. He and Jill Thayer, chief legal counsel of the Bureau of Legislative Research, presented the legislative study proposal on Thursday.
“There’s actually going to be two different groups,” Hill told the executive subcommittee. “The attorney general has put together a study group on his side, and our subcommittee is going to be putting more information together. We’re going to work hand-in-hand with the attorney general to make sure we have some good legal advice and it’s all properly done.”
The study resolution directs the subcommittee to review Arkansas’ laws on concealed carry and the ownership, use and possession of firearms. The panel should recommend legislation “clarify the rights and restrictions of citizens.”
Among the issues the subcommittee will study are matters related to firearms instructors, including uniformity of qualifications, accountability after initial licensing, continuing education requirements and enforcement and oversight of Arkansas State Police rules regarding firearms instructors.
The subcommittee is also expected to review requirements for concealed carry instructors, including marksmanship standards; how state and federal gun laws interact; and which agency should provide advice to State Police when firearms laws conflict.
The issues cited in the call for the study echo those raised by witnesses at the July Game & Fish/State Police subcommittee meeting. Second Amendment activists and county sheriffs called on the panel to create a task force to help eliminate confusion about existing gun laws.
Arkansas stopped requiring a concealed-carry permit in 2021 and amended the law this year to make it clear that a license is only provided to allow reciprocity for those who travel to states where a permit is required.
Act 777 of 2023 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 subcommittee in July, and there’s a need to clarify some overlapping and piecemeal laws and regulations.
Cleburne County Sheriff Chris Brown, a firearms trainer himself, said obtaining a basic permit doesn’t require teaching of topics that most people are interested in: use of force and when to use a weapon or when to leave rather than confront someone. An enhanced permit course covers those topics, he said.
Members of the public wishing to provide input for the attorney general’s review can email comments to: [email protected].
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