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story.lead_photo.caption Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson - Photo by Jeff Mitchell

Gov. Asa Hutchinson postured himself as a reliable supporter of gun rights with "appropriate limits" in a speech to the Arkansas Sheriffs' Association on Monday.

The Republican governor -- also a former federal prosecutor and head of the Drug Enforcement Administration -- appeared at ease speaking in front of the law enforcement group at its meeting in Little Rock. His 22-minute speech highlighted his successful efforts to create beds for treatment of the mentally ill and to reduce lockups of low-level parole and probation offenders, while interspersing his record with anecdotes about drug busts and visions of the "Old West."

"I believe in the rule of law," Hutchinson told the group. "You have the heart and soul of the rule of law."

In his bid for re-election to a second four-year term, Hutchinson faces a primary challenge from Hot Springs gun-range owner Jan Morgan. Morgan has derided the governor's record on guns.

Last month, Hutchinson told the Arkansas State Police in a memo that he believed Arkansans have a right to openly carry handguns, a decision he told the sheriff's group Monday was made to provide clarity. County sheriffs are not bound by the governor's memo.

Hutchinson also said it was "common sense" to require gun owners to train and get a permit before being allowed to carry a concealed weapon in public -- a stance that set him apart from Morgan.

"In my judgment, that [concealed carry license] is absolutely consistent with the Arkansas Constitution and our Second Amendment privileges," Hutchinson said.

Morgan's campaign spokesman, Tracy Horne, said Monday the Arkansas Constitution and laws passed by the Legislature allow anyone to carry a weapon in the open or concealed, regardless of whether they are licensed to do so.

Horne said Hutchinson has only caused confusion among gun owners for stating otherwise. Morgan plans to make an appearance today at the association's winter conference, Horne said, though she is not scheduled to speak.

The sole announced Democratic candidate for governor, Jared Henderson, said Monday he supports the concealed carry licensing process, but open carry "goes too far." He said he was aiming to attend the conference today.

Among the crowd of sheriffs and their deputies, Morgan's opposition to concealed carry licensing is unlikely to get a positive reception, said Perry County Sheriff Scott Montgomery, the head of the association.

The bigger concern, Montgomery said, was that the licensing process for a concealed carry permit is not extensive enough.

"It shouldn't be that you go out there and shoot at a target. There should be some extra training," Montgomery said.

State police require at least five hours of classroom instruction for a regular concealed carry license, according to the agency's online training manual. A 2017 law will allow some permit holders to take their weapons onto public college campuses and other public places if they receive eight additional hours of training, though those "enhanced" permits have yet to be issued.

Metro on 01/30/2018

Print Headline: Sheriffs hear call for care on guns; Permits needed, Hutchinson says

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  • sjmays
    January 30, 2018 at 9:40 a.m.

    Growing up during the 1950s and 60s, everyone I knew had a shotgun or 22, I never knew anyone who owned a handgun. I have no understanding of all this need for 200 guns and high powered, automatic weapons. As a child, I never knew of anyone who died from a gunshot. That only happened in movies. What is going on???

  • GeneralMac
    January 30, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.

    Penalties for crimes committed while using a firearm ( armed robbery) should be steep.

    A felon should be scared to get caught in possession of a gun as the penalty should be steep.

    They are not.
    Thugs are roaming the street with lengthy arrest records of crimes while using a firearm.

    Lil Boosi was roaming the streets with only a 5pm verbal curfew imposed. ( which he ignored )

  • sjmays
    January 30, 2018 at 12:17 p.m.

    And why is that--firearms are so very accessible.

  • wildblueyonder
    January 30, 2018 at 5:48 p.m.

    What country did you grow up in sjmays? I grew up in the same time frame and there WERE shootings that resulted in murder. Bizarre observation on your part.

  • sjmays
    January 30, 2018 at 6:52 p.m.

    Did you grow up here? If there was a murder, it was front-page news for a year it was so unusual. I never knew anyone who had a gunshot wound or was murdered either one.

  • dearlo
    January 31, 2018 at 2:07 a.m.

    I too never knew of but one murder and that was about 30 years ago and he killed serval. He still on death row.