LITTLE ROCK, Ark.(KARK) – From lawmakers to gun instructors, the state’s new enhanced carry rules fired up a lot of people at the Arkansas state capitol Tuesday.
A legislative committee reviewed the draft rules that Arkansas State Police crafted for the enhancement to a concealed carry permit holder’s license.
Under the rules, the program will give guidance to the state’s 1,000 instructors. They will then independently develop training courses for people wanting an enhanced carry permit, which will include about six hours in the classroom and two at the gun range.
The new law gave state police 120 days to promulgate the rules, which puts the deadline at Jan. 1.
There was still debate Tuesday afternoon as to what exactly promulgate means, how much the enhancement would cost and how the training would work for both instructors and their students.
Parts of the legislation restricted state police’s imagination.
“The training must be offered by all training instructors and at all concealed carry training courses,” read Mary Claire McLaurin, a staff attorney for state police. “We didn’t see any other way around that.”
The law requires every instructor to teach the enhanced carry class. If they don’t, they can no longer teach the concealed carry class.
Rep. Joe Jett, R-Success, admitted to McLaurin and Col. Bill Bryant, the director of state police, that he and a lot of his colleagues feel like they dropped the ball on this, offering an opt-out clause where instructors would not lose their concealed carry certification.
Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, urged his colleagues to clean up this and other parts of the law during the fiscal session in February.
State police gave instructors more time to get their enhanced training, from three to six months after the rules go into effect. However, some have already holstered their passion as the debate continues.
“A lot of guys have just said, ‘To heck with it. We’re not going to do it,'” Bob Bailey, the owner of Bailey Signature Firearms in Russellville and longtime CHCL instructor, told the committee. “I’m still on the fence whether I am actually going to keep my instructor certificate.”
Bailey warned lawmakers if more instructors pull out, enhanced carry will be even more difficult to get.
“I’m sure it’s a supply and demand thing,” he said. “The price will go up.”
Col. Bryant said his agency will only charge $15 for the enhancement. The cost of the training will be left up to each instructor.
Bailey said concealed carry instructors in the state charge anywhere from $35 to about $200 for the five-hour course. No one threw out an exact price tag for the enhanced training.
Col. Bryant told lawmakers for the past five years, his agency has averaged $2.5 million in special revenue from concealed carry licensing, which helps fund officer salaries.
While the state requires concealed carry holders to renew their license every five years, the enhancement is good for life.
Another rule allows permit holders to waive up to four hours of the enhanced training based on their experience within ten years prior to their application. That inspired several lawmakers to consider merging the concealed and enhanced carry training in the future.
“The basic concealed handgun license curriculum and the enhanced are two different animals,” Bryant said.
Once the training is complete, the new law allows guns inside dorm rooms as long as they’re not stored there. Arkansans can also carry guns in public colleges, common areas of airports, public sporting events and most state offices, including the Arkansas capitol.
Guns are still prohibited in courtrooms, prisons, K-12 public schools, public pre-K programs and daycares.
Private colleges, churches, bars and any other privately-owned businesses can opt out with signs or by verbally telling license holders they cannot carry on the premises.
College sporting events can also opt out if state police approve the schools’ security plans.
Col. Bryant told the committee if the 78 public universities in the state each submit one plan per sport, the agency would be forced to allocate more manpower to the review process. For that reason, he hopes schools submit one plan for all sporting events.
Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, asked Col. Bryant why permits like this are necessary when Arkansas is a constitutional carry state.
“I’ve been doing this business for 43 years in law enforcement,” Bryant responded. “My job is to enforce the laws, not make them. That would be up to the general assembly and the governor’s office.”