Arkansas continues this year to make solid improvements to our Right to Keep and Bear Arms, as the 2013 Regular Session proves to be one of the most productive for pro-Second Amendment legislative reforms in recent memory. This week, Governor Mike Beebe (D) signed into law two more NRA-backed bills.
The first, House Bill 1503, the Firearm Retailer Protection Bill, was signed into law on March 26. This new law will protect lawful firearm retailers from illegal gun sting operations such as those orchestrated by billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Anti-gun extremist Bloomberg has sent hired agents into other states to attempt deceptive illegal firearm purchases in an effort to blame federally licensed firearm retailers for gun crimes in New York City and around the country.
Yesterday, Governor Beebe signed House Bill 1819 into law. This law is an important amendment to the Emergency Powers statute, and will prohibit any Arkansas Governor from imposing restrictions on the transfer or transportation of lawfully possessed firearms during a declared State of Emergency. We thank Governor Beebe for signing these important pro-gun reforms.
In addition to these new laws, several other pro-gun bills are awaiting action.
Senate Bill 858, which would establish that Arkansas recognize any valid Right-to-Carry permit issued by another state, passed in the state Senate by an overwhelming 34-1 vote on Tuesday. Introduced by state Senator Jason Rapert (R-35), this important reform would replace the current conditional reciprocity standard. SB 858 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee and could be considered on Tuesday, April 2.
Senate Bill 896, introduced by state Senator Bryan King (R-5), has also been referred to the House Judiciary Committee and also could be heard on Tuesday. This legislation is a companion bill to Senate Bill 71, also sponsored by Senator King and signed into law by Governor Beebe in February. SB 71 removed the absolute prohibition on concealed handgun carry license (CHCL) holders from carrying a concealed firearm for personal protection into any church or other place of worship. Churches and other places of worship can now decide if CHCL holders will be allowed to carry concealed firearms on their property. SB 896 would address places of worship that also have a private school (grades K-12) on the same property. Because Arkansas law prohibits CHCL holders from carrying their personal protection firearms onto any school property, SB 896 is necessary to create an exemption for those properties that have the dual function of acting as both a house of worship as well as a private school.
Please contact members of the House Judiciary Committee and urge them to support SB 858 and SB 896.
Finally, we alerted you last week to House Bill 2162, introduced by state Representative Eddie Armstrong (D-37), which sought to allow the destruction of any firearms that have been seized by law enforcement in Arkansas. Current law stipulates that all unclaimed seized property, with only minor exceptions, be sold at public auction. HB 2162 would not only allow for seized firearms to be destroyed (currently not part of the exceptions), but would also allow only Federal Firearms License (FFL) holders or another law enforcement agency to acquire any firearms that are not destroyed but allowed to be sold. HB 2162 passed in the House Judiciary Committee and could have been considered on the House floor. Thanks to your calls, HB 2162 has been amended to make it slightly better by removing the destruction option, and it was then sent back to the House Judiciary Committee. Please contact members of that committee and urge them to work with the NRA to make additional necessary changes to this legislation. Contact information for members on the House Judiciary Committee is provided below:
Representative Marshall Wright (Chair)
Representative John T. Vines (Vice Chair)