People around Arkansas debated about “campus carry” for months before it was passed into law. Now they have a better sense of what they must do to get an enhanced concealed handgun permit.
Draft rules published by the Arkansas State Police prescribe eight hours of training for applicants, and testing for all registered firearms instructors. Classes will likely be offered beginning in January or February
Jacob Medler, a student at University of Central Arkansas, said he would apply for the enhancement to his concealed carry license as soon as he could.
“I feel safe at UCA, and I think campus security does a great job,” he said, “but, you know, they can’t be everywhere at once.”
The Arkansas State Police was given 120 days after the effective date of the law—which was September 1—to create a training program for the enhanced permit, which allows holders to carry handguns on college campuses, in bars, inside the State Capitol, and other locations. Certified instructors were just notified about the requirements Monday.
“I don’t know that any of us really knew what to expect, other than it was going to be some classroom time and some range time,” said Nathan House, an instructor and the general manager of Arkansas Armory. “I think it’s a—at least at first reading—it looks like a pretty good program that they’ve thought through.”
The classroom work will include lessons about how to react to active shooters and terror attacks, how to respond to police officers in those situations, and the punishments for improper use of a firearm. The enhancement will renew automatically, but only if the holder passes the test every five years to renew the concealed carry license.
“Anybody who carries and has went through the concealed carry training, they know that you don’t use it for offensive, it’s for defensive purposes only,” Medler stated. “If you ever have the thought where you think, ‘hey, do I need my gun right now?’ You don’t need it. You know, it needs to be, the situation will arise. You’ll know you need it.”
Instructors will also have to pass a test from the state police within the first three months after the rules are approved, demonstrating their knowledge of the new law. If they do not take the test, or fail it, they will lose their registration to teach any kind of firearms class.
“No one ever likes to be put under pressure that you’re gonna be forced to take a test again. But at the end of the day, we need to know this material because we’re gonna be the ones standing there in front of people and teaching it. So, I don’t really have a problem with it. We just need to hit the books and be prepared to take those tests, if we’re going to keep our certification.”
Medler says, if a gunman decides to attack UCA, he would not try to play the hero. He would rather have campus and city police officers take care of the situation. But he claims he will still feel safer knowing that he can be armed soon, too.
“I’d be staying in the classroom,” he explained, “hiding behind the locked door with the rest of the students. But in the event that that shooter was to come through that door I would want to have something besides a notebook to throw at him. You know, because at the end of the day, I’ve got a beautiful wife and two children I want to come home to every night.”
The Arkansas State Police is accepting public comments about the proposed rules. People may send in written comments until Nov. 10, and there will be an open meeting for spoken comments at 10 a.m.. Oct. 31.
House said there are a couple details in the proposed rules that are missing. One is that the rules state an applicant may have three tries to qualify on the range, and if s/he fails, the instructor may not give them a new test for six months. The rules do not, however, state if the applicant can go to a new instructor within that time limit.
He also found a problem with the scoring system. “In the course of fire that’s listed, it talks about the number of rounds that you need to shoot and the distances they need to be shot at, and how much time is involved,” he said. “But I haven’t read anything in there about a particular target that’s needed. So, does it need 35 out of 50 hits on a piece of 8.5x11 paper, or does it, can we stretch a piece of butcher paper across the entire range and call it good?”
More important to House than any omission is the timing of the publication of the proposed rules.
“What’s clear to me,” he stated, “is that the State Police is getting this information two and half months ahead of schedule, in essence. And they’re opening it up to public comment. That means that they’re trying to take as many people as partners in this, and that they’re not trying to go it alone. And I think that’s a really good approach.”