LITTLE ROCK, ARK. - At the first of the year, Arkansas State Police are expected to release the training for enhanced carry permits.
The first-of-its-kind law was passed during the last legislative session by an overwhelming majority.
"When this is done, there will be less gun-free zones, which are soft-targets in Arkansas, when this is done, there will be more people carrying in more places, being able to protect themselves and others in more places,” argued State Representative, Bob Ballinger, Friday, Dec. 15 during an Arkansas Legislative Council meeting.
The issue is over one word: shall.
That word, included in the law, means every concealed carry instructor in Arkansas must also teach enhanced carry classes.
"I have been told amongst the instructors, there will be many who won't instruct, and will simply drop out because they do not have the time or want to be involved in the Enhanced Carry,” Senator Terry Rice said of what he was told by constituents.
"Any time you roll out something new, it's going to require us to do some massaging as we go along. So as we start rolling it out, we will probably need to make some changes in order to fit what actually is best,” Ballinger said after the meeting.
Friday, the Arkansas Legislative Council, essentially Arkansas' Legislature when it isn't in session, had the opportunity to vote on whether to keep the rule which could mean less instructors and license holders in Arkansas or to fix the language, but delay the process for Enhanced Carry Permits.
The issue sparked a serious debate that crossed party lines and at times got very heated.
"If a doctor does not want to carry out an abortion, for example, I don't think we force them to do that. So I'm thinking about that philosophical point ourselves,” Senator Joyce Elliot argued from the floor.
"Dealing with gun legislation is like dealing with a gun. You need to take your time, you need to be careful. You need to be methodical. That didn't happen on this debacle. Because our leadership had to get their way, their way,” Senator Bryan King said.
After nearly an hour and a half of vigorous debate, the vote was taken and the rule was approved.
"The same people that are trying to beat their chest and say they're for gun rights are actually hurting gun rights because now we have concealed weapon permit instructors saying they're going to quit. Not doing it, not offering it in many rural counties,’ said Senator King. He was one of the Republicans that voted against pushing the law forward. "These Republicans that cry free market and everything like that are on the other hand making laws that force instructors to teach it."
Representative Ballinger voted to push the bill forward, but says he thinks the language will be fixed before the clock runs out in six months.
"We can take that off, and I think that's the kind of clean up stuff that we can do in fiscal session. As long as everybody is sort of in agreement; we can take that up and fix it,” he said.
Concealed Carry instructors have six months to get their enhanced carry training, or they lose their certificate. That is, unless the legislature is able to fix the language in February.
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