Arkansas House sends bill to governor’s desk aimed at clarifying a license isn’t required to carry a concealed firearm

Arkansas state Rep. Marcus Richmond, R-Harvey, asks a question about Senate Bill 495 during the House Judiciary Committee meeting at the state Capitol in Little Rock on Wednesday, April 5, 2023. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

The Arkansas House on Thursday approved a bill supporters say is intended to clarify that a license is not required to carry a concealed firearm within the state.

Senate Bill 480 by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forrest, passed the House with a vote of 81-11 and advances to Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' desk.

Alexa Henning, spokesperson for the Republican governor, said in a written statement Thursday that Sanders intends to sign the bill.

"The Governor strongly supports the second amendment. This bill further clarifies that Arkansas is a constitutional carry state," Henning said.

Opponents have raised concerns that instead of clarifying state law, the bill would create confusion as to when a person would need an enhanced concealed carry license to carry a firearm.

House majority leader Marcus Richmond, R-Harvey, presented the bill on the House floor, saying two court rulings had found defendants who carried concealed firearms without permits had not violated Arkansas law.

In an attempt to provide clarification to state code, SB480 would specify that a subchapter of state law concerning concealed carry "does not require a person to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun in order to carry a concealed handgun in this state."

Richmond said the bill would not impact sections of state law requiring an enhanced concealed carry permit, which is needed to carry a concealed firearm in certain government buildings and other areas.

"This particular section that we're talking about with concealed carry is §5-73-328. The code concerning enhanced carry as well as protected places is in §5-73-122 and §5-73-120, two different areas."

During a House Judiciary meeting Tuesday, Rep. Nicole Clowney, D-Fayetteville, raised concerns the bill would put sections of state law in conflict with each other.

"We now have two sections of law, one says you're not able to carry without an enhanced license, the other section now says you don't need a license," she said. "If what you're trying to do is clarify, this won't do it."

Clowney and Rep. Andrew Collins, D-Little Rock, raised concerns about how the bill would impact law enforcement during the committee meeting. Richmond told the House that law enforcement agencies were neutral on the legislation.