LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - On the first day of 2018, gun owners were expected to start training for an enhanced concealed carry license. But a "hiccup" in the language could affect to whom and when those licenses start going out.
It’s one word and it is causing quite the headache for concealed carry instructors, gun owners, and legislators. Whether it was an oversight or a misjudgment, it could make the difference for some Arkansans hoping to get an Enhanced Carry License.
"When you pass a bill that is supposed to be pro-gun, and it has an anti-gun consequence,” said Nathan House, owner and Concealed Carry Instructor at Arkansas Armory. "That, to me, just says we didn't do the job we needed to do back in February and March, when we were writing this, bill, to make the language work."
WHAT THE BILL SAYS
The language in question is this: "Training under this subsection shall be offered by all training instructors and at all concealed carry training courses."
The way the law is written now, if you're a concealed carry instructor that maybe doesn't have the time or the space to teach the enhanced classes, you wouldn't be able to teach at all.
That is according to Arkansas State Police's interpretation of the law. Why is it being talked about now? ASP is set to release the curriculum the first of the year, but those rules have to be approved by the legislature.
HOW THIS WILL IMPACT GUN OWNERS
"We didn't look at every word and think about the implications of that,” House told us Wednesday.
He plans to offer the training and has a waitlist of over 100 people but said he told legislators as far back as last February the language was going to be a problem for other instructors.
"If somebody in a rural area of the state can't find an instructor to go get a concealed carry class, then that puts them in a bad situation and ultimately is going to reduce the number of people that have a concealed carry permit in the state," he said.
Another concealed carry instructor told us he lives near the White River and only maintains his certificate to help his handful of customers renew their license when needed. He doesn't plan to undergo the enhanced training, meaning those customers will be forced to go someone else if they want the training.
WHAT WE CAN DO TO FIX IT
What can be done before the first of the year when instructors will begin getting guidance? It appears to be very little.
"Until there is a legislative change to that law [police's] hands are tied and until we are in an actual session where we can introduce changes to the law our hands are tied,” State Representative Jim Dotson told us.
Dotson heads the Arkansas Legislative Council, which will review the law on Friday. If the ALC votes for the rule, people can start applying for the enhanced training at the first of the year. If ALC opposes the rule, it could be pushed for a vote to the fiscal session in February.
If the Arkansas legislature decides they want lawmakers to vote, it could be delayed until April of 2019.
If concealed carry instructors don't get the enhanced training after six months, their certificate will be void.
WHAT THE LAW'S SPONSORS HAD TO SAY
State Representative Charlie Collins, who introduced the controversial law, said he doesn't want to let "'perfect become the enemy of the 'good'" in regards to the training.
"We need to get the existing law implemented and consider changes as we get experience," Collins said. "The ASP have worked hard and are experts on managing CCL programs."
State Senator Trent Garner voiced similar thoughts, saying new laws like the enhanced permit always requires "some work that needs to be done." Garner said that since the law requires its implementation at the first of the year, there is a "legal obligation to work through this process quickly" despite the problems that have appeared.