Over the course of the upcoming year legislators will study all the various laws in Arkansas governing firearms, with the intent of simplifying them.
The study was prompted by requests from law enforcement and instructors of gun safety. At legislative meetings this summer they have asked for clarification of when and where it is legal to carry firearms.
Legislators themselves have been seeking clarity on the state’s gun laws. Earlier this year lawmakers approved Act 777 to clarify that a concealed carry permit is not required in order to carry a concealed firearm in Arkansas. The purpose of issuing permits to Arkansas residents is to make it simpler for them to comply with gun laws in other states, and to qualify for reciprocal treatment.
The state attorney general already has begun working to clarify the state’s gun laws, along with the Senate co-chairman of the Legislative Council and the Senate co-chairman of the Council’s subcommittee that focuses on the Game and Fish Commission and the State Police.
As an example of how confusing the state’s gun laws can be, the attorney general said that in the past ten years, lawmakers had requested about two dozen official opinions about firearms.
The Game and Fish-State Police subcommittee will submit recommendations by October 1, 2024. The Legislative Council will consider the final report during its meeting in December of 2024, and the entire legislature will vote on the recommendations during the 2025 regular session. It begins in January of 2025.
One point of clarification will be the locations where carrying a concealed firearm is restricted, such as courtrooms, jails and prisons.
There is a distinction between ordinary concealed carry permits and enhanced permits, which allow the permit holder greater access to public areas.
Also to be decided will be the qualifications of firearms instructors, how much continuing education they must complete and the extent that the State Police is authorized to enforce standards for firearms instructors.
Arkansas laws and federal laws are not the same. Legislators will study and recommend which state agency is best qualified to answer questions about discrepancies between state and federal statutes.
The attorney general and legislative leaders emphasized that the purpose of the study will be to strengthen the protections in the Second Amendment, which guarantees the rights of citizens to bear arms.
The Arkansas legislature has never enacted a bill that would restrict the Second Amendment. However, understanding current laws can be complicated because there are so many on the books.
Representatives of law enforcement expressed support of the study, because they have sometimes have to interpret complicated and repetitive language. As the attorney general said, people should be able to make sense of Arkansas gun laws without having to hire a lawyer.
In 2017 the governor sent a letter to the State Police stating that “Act 743 of 2013 clarified that a person may open carry a handgun so long as there is no intent to unlawfully employ the handgun.” Any citation for mere open carry would be inappropriate and inconsistent with Arkansas law, the governor wrote.