The idea of allowing trained gun owners to take concealed weapons onto college campuses and in bars and public buildings again divided state lawmakers Tuesday, months after they passed Arkansas' "campus-carry" law.
Proponents of the new law, which required the Arkansas State Police to come up with rules for an "enhanced" concealed-carry training program, argued for the Rules and Regulations Subcommittee of the Legislative Council to approve those rules Tuesday so that the state can begin licensing gun owners to carry in now-forbidden areas early next year.
Plans for a vote on the rules were tabled, however, after three guns-rights advocates reignited arguments that the law -- Act 562 of 2017 -- did not go far enough in extending rights.
Instead of approving the new rules, lawmakers on the subcommittee decided to hold the matter for a vote Friday before the full Legislative Council. The council is a body of lawmakers that reviews state government matters between legislative sessions.
The move essentially punted the decision. Even had the committee voted to approve the rules, the full council also would have had to OK that decision Friday.
No members of the public came to speak for or against the new concealed-carry rules themselves. During this year's regular legislative session, college administrators and police officials traveled to Little Rock to oppose the bill that became the law.
Instead, the speakers Tuesday said that they felt the new law did not give them the ability to take their guns anywhere they are currently prohibited from carrying. At one point, 60-year-old Mark Cochran of Benton read aloud the Second Amendment of the Constitution, with which he said lawmakers appeared to have little familiarity.
Each of the public speakers said they believed Arkansas is an open-carry state, meaning gun owners don't legally need a permit to carry a firearm. It is the nonbinding opinion of Attorney General Leslie Rutledge that Arkansas laws do allow open carry.
"We don't really see a benefit to it," Bob Bailey said of Act 562. Bailey, a concealed-carry instructor from Russellville, later handed a reporter a business card for his campaign to run in a state Senate special election next year.
"I don't see any more privileges or protections than I have now," said Shane Shackleford of Russellville, who, along with Bailey, is a member of the River Valley Gun Club.
Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, one of the sponsors of the campus-carry law, disputed that assertion, telling Bailey that he could carry a gun from where he sat in front of lawmakers once the rules are put in place and Bailey gets an enhanced permit.
But Bailey, 58, said he believed many of the state's concealed-carry instructors would quit training if they were forced to offer the enhanced-carry classes, as the new law requires.
Mary Claire McLaurin, an attorney for the state police, said the rules were written to require instructors to teach both regular and enhanced courses in order to reflect what lawmakers had written into Act 562.
Other lawmakers, responding to the push-back, seemed less inclined to move forward with the rules.
"Us as a Legislature dropped the ball on this," said Rep. Joe Jett, R-Success.
Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, suggested that if lawmakers approve the rules, they could use the fiscal session next year to make tweaks to the law that would not require instructors to teach both concealed-carry courses.
Sen. Terry Rice, R-Waldron, moved to send the proposed rules to some other legislative committee for further study. However, a legislative researcher told the lawmakers that they were quickly approaching the Jan. 1 deadline to adopt the rules, as required by Act 562.
That led to a discussion about who would be held responsible for any delay: lawmakers responsible for approving the rules, or the state police, who wrote them.
"I think it would be more on you guys than them," Jessica Sutton, an administrator with the Bureau of Legislative Research, told lawmakers.
Faced with the deadline, Rice changed his motion to a request that the matter be held for a full vote before the Legislative Council.
Metro on 12/13/2017
Print Headline: Panel delays campus-gun training rules; Law too restrictive, critics tell legislators; vote is reset