It only took about an hour, but the only public meeting for experts to weigh in on the new enhanced-carry law delivered more than a few concerns.
About 75 people, mostly weapons instructors, law enforcement officers or both, went before Maj. Lindsey Williams, the state police commander of regulations.
They had lots of questions.
They didn't get answers today.
Instead, they expressed concerns and tried to convey one thing: we need more details before we start teaching people about guns in high-profile public places.
“When somebody comes out of a classroom looking for a fight, because they've got their concealed handgun and we see them, they're going to die,” said Thomas Gage, a firearms instructor and reserve deputy with the Sebastian County Sheriff’s office.
He outlined what instructors teach concealed handgun carriers now, and how a new enhanced law blurs current regulations.
“The new rules are supposed to teach how to deal with law enforcement. Hopefully that’s what it is, but so far I haven’t seen any kind of syllabus,” Gage said.
The new law allows concealed-carry holders to bring weapons into high-profile public places like college campuses, government buildings and bars, but they have to go through special classes. Arkansas State Police have released draft rules for those classes. They are in the middle of a 120-day public comment period.
Tuesday’s meeting was the only chance to meet face-to-face with regulators.
There was some disappointment in the crowd when it was announced there would be no question-and-answer session. They wanted only comments and concerns.
What they heard after that touched on recurring themes.
“We need a syllabus. We need to know what to teach, said Alan Bradley, an instructor from Dover. “I’d like to see all the instructors on the same page.”
“I think there's contradictions as other instructors have spoken about,” said Kevin Buck, who came from Gravette and his Effective Defensive Concepts weapons training center. “We are the ones out here training and there does need to be a standardization of the training.”
“The proposed course of fire is not revolver friendly or small capacity magazine friendly,” said Tom DuPriest, an instructor with Shoot House USA in Conway. “It could present in a large class environment some potential safety issues.”
One unanswered question: how much will this cost the instructors?
Prominent gun-rights activist and potential candidate for governor, Jan Morgan, made the most of her time at the microphone.
“That's the right thing to do by the people of this state. It's the ethical thing to do for the amount of money we're charging,” Morgan said. “It's the safe thing to do for all citizens who want responsible citizens carrying guns in this state.”
With dozens of experts raising questions, the pressure's on state police to get ready by January when the public comment period runs out. There are doubts among the experts they will make it.
“I think longer than the 120 days that we have,” Buck said. “We have a lot of questions and we haven’t seen enough from them and today we couldn’t ask questions.”