LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A permit would not be required to carry a concealed handgun in Arkansas under a bill lawmakers sent Thursday to Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, which supporters say is meant to clear up a decade-old disagreement about the state’s gun laws.
Sanders’ office said she plans to sign the measure approved by the majority-Republican House on a 81-11 vote.
“The governor strongly supports the Second Amendment,” spokeswoman Alexa Henning said in a statement. “This bill further clarifies that Arkansas is a constitutional carry state.”
Both gun rights and gun control advocates already widely considered Arkansas to be one of more than two dozen states that doesn’t require a concealed carry permit. That’s followed a 2013 change to the state’s gun laws that’s prompted differing interpretations on how it’s affected the state’s concealed carry requirements.
The bill was approved Thursday with no debate in the House, but opponents have questioned the impact the legislation would have on a 2017 law that allows concealed handguns in certain locations, including the state Capitol. That law allows guns in the previously-barred locations if someone undergoes additional training and gets an “enhanced” permit.
“This is going to cause huge amounts of confusion with respect to the enhanced concealed carry,” Democratic Rep. Nicole Clowney told members of the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week, referring to the 2017 law.
But supporters of the bill said it wouldn’t have any impact on that part of the law and the enhanced carry requirements would still exist.
“I believe we need this bill to pass to provide that clarification out there so we don’t have citizens basically being harassed because there’s a misunderstanding of what you can or cannot do,” Republican Rep. Marcus Richmond, the bill’s co-sponsor, told the House before Thursday’s vote.
There are more than 190,000 active concealed handgun licenses in Arkansas, and about 30,000 of them are enhanced licenses, according to the state Department of Public Safety.
The bill heads to Sanders’ desk as Republicans in other states have been loosening gun laws, despite mass shootings in recent years, including the fatal shooting of three children and three adults at a Nashville, Tennessee, Christian school last month.
Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis this week signed a new law that will allow concealed handguns to be carried without a permit. That law takes effect in July.
When Sanders signs Arkansas’ legislation, it won’t take effect until 90 days after the Legislature adjourns its session, meaning the measure wouldn’t be enforced until this summer.