2019 Session: Push to clarify gun rights in Arkansas stalls in House committee

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The debate continues at the Capitol over constitutional carry in the Natural State: do Arkansans need a permit to open or conceal carry?

St. Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro, presented a one-page resolution to the House Judiciary Committee Thursday that he said would clarify that.

It points to a 2018 case, Jamie Taff v. State of Arkansas, where the Arkansas Court of Appeals affirmed that open or concealed carry without a permit is not a violation of Arkansas law.

“I want to remind the committee that Jamie Taff was carrying concealed, and the court found that that was not unlawful,” Tim Loggins, a member of the Patriots of Act 746, told lawmakers. “The basic purpose of the concealed handgun license at this point is for reciprocity for traveling outside of the state for state’s that don’t recognize constitutional carry, and it’s also important for making FFL [federal firearms license] purchases.”

The group brought the resolution to Smith. It garnered support from fellow Republicans in the committee.

“Is it not true that outside this building today, the citizens of Arkansas are open carrying and exercising their constitutional right as Arkansas citizens?,” asked St. Rep. Marsh Davis, R-Cherokee Village. 

“Not only are they open carrying, but they’re concealed carrying without a permit all over the state and not getting arrested because they’re not violating the law,” Loggins responded.

However, the resolution triggered criticism from Democrats.

“My concern is that a resolution would further muddy the waters,” said St. Rep. Nicole Clowney, D-Fayetteville.

“We shouldn’t try to interpret statutes or case laws through a resolution,” said St. Rep. Charles Blake, D-Little Rock. “If you want to run a constitutional carry bill, you should run a bill. We shouldn’t backdoor into a process that has been around for quite a long time.”

Another Democrat asked Smith to wait for an Arkansas Supreme Court ruling on the case.

“I strongly believe that this is a violation of the separation of powers,” said St. Rep. Jamie Scott, D-North Little Rock. 

But Smith shot that down.

“That could take even more time,” he said. “That’s just a delay tactic from those who are in opposition to Second Amendment rights.” 

Delay tactic or not, the committee pushed back a decision on the resolution until next week to allow all of those who signed up to speak for or against it to have their voice heard.  

According to Arkansas State Police, about a quarter of a million Arkansans have their concealed carry license. 

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