Speaking before officials from the Arkansas State Police, firearms instructors on Tuesday had a range of comments and concerns on proposed rules required by a state law that allows concealed firearms in bars, public colleges and other previously forbidden places.
During the public hearing at state police headquarters in Little Rock, several of the instructors addressed technical and specific parts of the proposed training and testing procedures, which state police created in accordance with Act 562, which was passed earlier this year.
Many called for specificity on a number of details outlined in the proposal, such as what targets to use during the firearms testing and what shooting position applicants should use during those qualifications. The instructors’ remarks came during a public hearing on the proposed rules, which were released last month.
“It is possible that our proposed [rules] could be revised based on public comment,” said Arkansas State Police Maj. Lindsey Williams during his opening remarks at the public hearing.
Although the legislation technically went into effect on Sept. 1, it requires those wishing to have an enhanced concealed-carry permit to complete an augmented training course approved by the state police.
The agency is now in the middle of a 30-day public comment period on those proposed rules, Williams said. The comment period will end at 4 p.m. on Nov. 10, he said.
After that, the agency will prepare a summary of the comments and submit them to the state’s Bureau of Legislative Research, which will review the summary and put the topic on the agenda for the December meeting of the Administrative Rules and Regulations Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council, Williams said.
According to the agency’s proposed rules, requirement for the enhanced concealed-carry permit would include instruction on “emergent situations in public locations, including the proper response to law enforcement and the duty to avoid injury to innocent bystanders.”
Under the proposal, applicants would receive six hours of in-class instruction and two hours of range qualification. The study would include information on the “possible ramifications of alcohol use while in possession of a firearm” and “identification as an Enhanced License holder in contact with law enforcement.”
Thomas Gage, a firearms instructor and law enforcement officer, said law enforcement across the state will have to receive new training on active-shooter situations due to the enhanced carry permits. Gage said he’s concerned that an officer would shoot an enhanced permit holder by accident during an active-shooter situation.
“When we enter the building, we’re going to shoot anybody with a gun. That’s what we’ve been trained to do,” Gage said, mentioning he hopes the training provided to enhanced concealed-carry holders would address such a situation.
According to the proposal, the instruction would also include information on matters related to “campus carry” which includes the “responsibility of the licensee to know and obey the campus’s weapons policies.”
Private colleges are not subject to the enhanced-carry law. The law was paired with Act 859 of 2017, which restricts carrying concealed weapons at private colleges, teaching hospitals, collegiate athletic events, day cares, bars or churches that choose not to allow concealed handguns.
Any university seeking to designate an event as a “firearm-sensitive area” must submit a detailed security plan outlining expected attendance, security and medical personnel, evacuation procedures and other information to the Arkansas State Police, according to the proposed rules.
The draft proposal also states that enhanced carry applicants would take part in a “live-fire proficiency qualification,” which includes timed shooting exercises between 3 and 15 yards away. The applicant would have to pass the test to receive an enhanced concealed-carry permit.
Under the proposal, all concealed firearms instructors would be required to provide training for the enhanced concealed-carry permit and must pass an examination covering the new rules. Multiple instructors had questions regarding the exam, according to emails provided by the state police under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
Information for this article was contributed by Scott Carroll of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
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