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Monday, May 20, 2024

Arkansas State Police Discuss CHCL at ALC Meeting


On Tuesday, June 18, representatives from the Arkansas State Police appeared before the Arkansas Legislative Council Committee.

Colonel Bill Bryant, Director of the Arkansas State Police and Mary Claire McLaurin, ASP Staff Attorney, were there to discuss concealed handgun carry license (CHCL) applications.

Members of the ALC include: Senator Keith Ingram, Co-Chair; Representative Josh Miller, Co-Chair; Senator Jimmy Hickey, Jr, Vice-Chair; Representative John Payton, Vice-Chair; Senator Gary Stubblefield, Representative Jon S. Eubanks, Senator Eddie Cheatham, Representative Bruce Cozart, Senator Blake Johnson, Representative Richard Womack, Senator David Wallace, Representative Charlene Fite, Senator Breanne Davis, Representative LeAnne Burch, Senator Bob Ballinger, Representative Jim Wooten, Senator Cecile Bledsoe, ex officio; Representative Jeff Wardlaw, ex officio; Senator Terry Rice, ex officio and Representative Jim Dotson, ex officio.

Representative Payton was the first to be recognized in the meeting, asking “does the Arkansas State Police recognize the citizen’s right to possess a firearm, concealed or unconcealed, without having a concealed handgun carry license?” In response Colonel Bryant stated, “that is the statute, and we are required…to adhere to that statute of CHCL.” Payton interjected, noting that Bryant had failed to address his question. Bryant responded that, “I believe, at least in my mind, I did answer the question…you are allowed to carry a weapon, but as far as concealed, the statute says you need a CHCL.”

Payton sought further answers, asking at what point would the right of a person who was carrying a weapon be taken away. The ASP Colonel responded, if someone has intent to commit a crime. “We follow the governor’s guidance until we have a clear court case,” Bryant added.

Bryant’s statements contrast those of Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. In June of last year she said, “It is incredibly important for Arkansans to have a complete and accurate picture regarding the potential consequences of carrying a concealed handgun without a concealed-carry license. Given the current state of the law, it is not entirely clear whether it is lawful to carry a concealed handgun without a concealed-carry license. Moreover, and relatedly, it is not entirely clear whether carrying a concealed handgun without a concealed-carry license will expose a citizen to conviction for “the offense of carrying a weapon. Legislative clarification is certainly warranted.”

After a discussion on the application process, and the waiver of information required to obtain a license, Payton asked what privacy an applicant retained when signing the application. “The individual will obtain a lot of privacy,” responded McLaurin.

Ballinger was recognized next, “frankly the code section is too broad…it’s probably unconstitutional, and as an agency you should probably deal with it.” He went on to ask about the code section in regards to CHCL. “What code section?…If you are going to enforce a criminal penalty, what code section prohibits a person from carrying concealed without a permit.”

McLaurin responded that there has not been an instance, that they are aware of, that the state police have enforced this code statute. She added that it may be determined by an officer, based on the totality of the circumstances, that if a person has a concealed handgun without a license, that they may be committing an offense. Ballinger summed that it is not consistent under the law. “The person most guilty is us, and frankly you, the state police.”

Ballinger said he hears from citizens on a daily basis concerning this issue. “They tell me they contacted state police, they said I can carry open but to carry concealed I need to contact local law enforcement. That’s not the way the law works. Either it’s legal or illegal…It’s criminal law, the answer is, it is legal to carry without a permit. I’m totally open, if someone can point to me something other than the contrary. If we’re going to enforce a criminal penalty, you better have a code subsection saying that’s a crime.”

Representative Miller asked if the Arkansas State Police would oppose clarification and a narrowing of the statute in the upcoming session. Bryant responded that they have always worked closely with the general assembly, but noted that they would also have to work with the governor’s office. “I think we would always be good team players,” stated Bryant. “We will move to address any clarity that might be needed in the law.”

Senator Rice was recognized next and asked, “do you agree or disagree with the judge’s ruling on the Taff case, that said merely possessing a weapon is not a crime in the State of Arkansas.” Bryant stated that after visiting with his attorneys, he felt the case had more to do with reasonable suspicion than it did carrying a concealed weapon. In the Taff case, however, the judge ruled the deputies had based their search off legal activity and that Jamie Taff, who was carrying a concealed handgun, did not violate 5-73-120.

Representative Womack echoed Senator Ballinger’s request for a code statute number. “What clearly makes it illegal,” Womack asked. The ASP attorney agreed, “it could be somewhat confusing…5-73-120 says that carrying a weapon is a crime if you’re carrying it with the unlawful intent to employ it as a weapon against another person, and that has a lot of exceptions…”

Womack interrupted McLaurin. “Colonel Bryant why do you refuse to give an answer…” Bryant responded, I depend on our lawyers at the ASP to give their interpretation of that statute. Womack concluded, “it amazes me that it’s good enough for you. To not have a law, but you’re asking your officers to enforce it against the people of Arkansas.”

Senator Stubblefield was recognized and stated that it is up to the general assembly to clarify the law, not the ASP. “Your job is to carry out the law, it is up to us to make the law. This is very vague…there is no consistency. You can go in one county, they will arrest you, if you go in another, they won’t. What this general assembly needs to do in the next session is to clarify this.” Bryant agreed.

Locally, Sebastian County Prosecutor Daniel Shue issued a statement to area law enforcement to help clarify 5-73-120 in June of 2015. Shue stated that the “legal presumption no longer applies…,” and that “mere possession of the handgun, knife or club is no longer enough. When there is no evidence of a ‘purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ’ the weapon, then there has been no crime committed, and no criminal prosecution can be undertaken.”

Ballinger concluded by stating that the legislature has an obligation to address and clarify this. Payton also concluded that there is no gray area, and that people’s second amendment rights cannot be infringed upon.

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Tammy Teague
Tammy Teague
Tammy is the heart behind the brand. Her tenacity to curate authentic journalism, supported by a genuine heart is one her many wholesome qualities.
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