In the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, CT, all 50 states are evaluating their gun laws to see where improvements can be made to reduce gun-related violence and increase public safety.
So far, a clear trend has emerged. On one hand, there are states that are primarily pushing for sweeping gun control reform and on the other there are states that mainly want to expand self-defense rights for law-abiding gun owners.
With respect to that trend, where do Alabama and Arkansas fall?
Well, perhaps Alabama lawmaker John Rogers (D-Birmingham) said it best, “We’re a gun state with a big G.”
The same, of course, can be said for Arkansas.
First, in the Cotton State, lawmakers have proposed a number of pro-gun bills, including a ‘guns at work’ bill, a bill that would clarify the state’s open carry law so that law-abiding individuals aren’t arbitrarily charged with disturbing the peace, and a bill that would streamline the concealed carry issuance process.
State Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale) spoke with Alabama.com about the package of NRA-backed bills. If approved, they would:
– Allow people to carry legally purchased guns in their vehicles without a concealed carry permit.
– Require that Sheriffs issue someone a concealed carry permit unless there is a legal reason to deny them a permit. The current law says sheriffs “may issue” and not “shall issue” the permits.
– Allow people to bring their firearms to their workplace as long as they keep the weapons locked and out of view in their cars.
Additionally, there is significant momentum for a bill that would apply the tough judicial standard of “strict scrutiny” to the state’s Second Amendment.
In other words, if the state government wants to impose any restriction on a citizen’s right to keep and bear arms it has to demonstrate a “compelling government interest,” establish that the restriction is “narrowly defined” and prove that it is the “least restrictive means to achieve that interest” (for more on this click here).
“Given the course that the federal government is taking, it is imperative that we protect our God-given right to defend our families, our homes and ourselves,’ Rep. Mike Jones, the bill’s sponsor, told AL.com.
Last November, Louisiana became the first state to apply strict scrutiny to its Second Amendment.
In the Natural State, lawmakers have just passed – by an overwhelming majority – a bill that would allow licensed concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms in churches and houses of worship, provided church leaders approve of concealed carry.
“A person should be allowed to carry a firearm in a church that permits the carrying of a firearm for personal security,” the bill states.
In an interview with CNN, state Sen. Bryan King (R-Green Forest) spoke about how churches are “soft targets” and how it “could be thirty minutes to an hour” before police respond to a gunman in a church in some of the Arkansas’s more rural communities.
“In the previous law, people with a concealed carry license could not carry in church. No carry was allowed,” said Sen. King. “Now, this just allows each church to make their own individual decision.”
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe – a Democrat – is expected to sign the bill into law in the near future, a spokesman for the governor’s office told CNN.
Lastly, state senators are currently reviewing a bill that would keep private the names of approximately 130,000 concealed carry permit holders.
Under current law, the names and zip codes of CCW permit holders are available under the Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bruce Holland (R-Greenwood), told Fox News that he proposed the change after the Journal News, an NYC-based newspaper, published the names and addresses of CCW permit holders following the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting.