The 89th General Assembly has been busy with gun legislation. Here's a summary of the bills, and their current progress.
- HB 1243 — Sponsored by Rep. Collins et al. An act to allow trained and licensed staff & faculty to carry on public institutions of higher education in Arkansas. Read the bill here. This bill has cleared the House and will most certainly clear the Senate. The bill was amended, after much protest, to include an annual opt out by the Board of Trustees, and that was a hard-won victory. Senator Keith Ingram (D) attempted in the Senate Committee to amend the bill from an annual opt out to an opt-in without the annual affirmation, meaning that if schools wanted to allow concealed-carry, the school's Board would have to declare such an intention. Otherwise, schools, by default, would not allow concealed-carry. The amendment was defeated, but we are grateful to Senator Ingram for his common sense in proposing it. PASSED WITH AMENDMENT ADDED TO ALLOW BOARD TO PROHIBIT CONCEALED CARRY ANNUALLY.
- HB 1231 — Sponsored by Rep. Lenderman. An act concerning K-12 school security and crisis response training. Along with other provisions, this act would allow faculty and staff of K-12 to receive training to carry weapons at their respective schools to increase school security. Read the bill here. FAILED
- HB 1408 — Sponsored by Rep. Scott et al. An act to be known as the permitted open carry act. "Open carry" is defined differently in different states, but the intent is clear. Properly licensed carriers would be able to carry their weapons in plain view of the general public. Read the bill here. FAILED.
- HB 1269 — Sponsored by Rep. Catlett. An act to allow a concealed handgun licensee to keep a handgun in his or her locked vehicle on his or her employer's parking lot. Read the bill here.
- SB 131 — Sponsored by Sen. Holland. An act to protect the privacy of owners of, and applicants for, concealed handgun carry licenses; to exempt the name and corresponding zip code of an applicant, licensee, or past licensee from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act of 1967. Read the bill here. This bill has been sent to the Governor, and he will not sign it, but Lt. Governor Darr signed it. So the bill is now law. PASSED.
- SB 71 — Sponsored by Sen. King et al. An act to be known as the church protection act, it allows properly licensed concealed-carriers to bring their firearms to church, although the bill does not "preclude a church . . . from determining who may carry a concealed handgun into the church. . . ." This bill is now law. You can read the original bill here. PASSED.
- HB 1329 — Sponsored by Rep. Lea and Sen. English. An act concerning the fee associated concerned with the application for a concealed carry permit; providing for a reduced fee for certain persons in order to allow more Arkansans the opportunity to protect themselves. Read the bill here. FAILED IN THE HOUSE.
- SB 662 — Sponsored by Senator King. An act for the Department of Arkansas State Police, Concealed Carry Division, General Improvement Appropriation: $250,000 for "maintenance, personal services, and general maintenance of the Concealed Carry Division." Read the bill here.
A very busy 89th General Assembly, then, trying hard to place guns in our churches, kindergartens, primary schools, high schools, and institutions of higher education. And in the parking lots of our work-places too. And while they're placing these guns in more and more places, they also want to make it impossible for you to find out who has these state-issued licenses to carry concealed weapons.
And they want to make the permits cheaper so Arkansans can buy even more guns.
What's the unspoken purpose of these bills?
I can only speculate. Get rid of the traditional gun-free zones where public safety has been very secure, in my opinion, and prohibit the public disclosure of a state-granted licensees?
Purge the gun-free zones and cloak the licensees' records.
Purge and cloak.
At any rate, this is where we are in Arkansas with our firearms, and to an ordinary citizen like myself, this amounts to an obsession with guns. And I think it's a dangerous obsession. And I don't think it's a matter of free choice, as some of my friends do. I think it's a matter of understanding—a difficult thing to do—at what point our individual freedoms compromise our public safety.
When that happens, I lean toward preserving public safety.
Knowledge is power.
We'll start with that.