New Law Concerning Carrying a Concealed Weapon
I have received several questions regarding a new law, Act 777, passed by the 2023 Arkansas State Legislature which states a person in Arkansas can carry a concealed handgun without a concealed handgun carrying license and that the purpose of having a concealed handgun carrying license is to provide reciprocity in other states so an Arkansas license holder can carry a concealed handgun in the states that recognize our licenses. Act 777 states:
"SECTION 1. Arkansas Code Title 5, Chapter 73, Subchapter 3, is amended to add an additional section to read as follows:
5-73-328. Purpose and construction of subchapter.
(a) The purpose of this subchapter is solely to establish concealed carry licensing for the purpose of providing licensees reciprocity in other states that require a license to carry a concealed handgun in order to carry a concealed handgun.
(b) This subchapter does not require a person to obtain a license to carry a concealed handgun in order to carry a concealed handgun in this state."
In an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper article in the Sunday edition (April 30, 2023) page 1A, the state legislators who sponsored the bill stated under the new law you can carry a concealed handgun without a license in any of places that you can normally carry a handgun with a concealed handgun carrying license. BUT, you still must obtain an Enhanced Concealed Handgun Carrying License if you want to carry a handgun in the places under the enhanced carry list: State Capitol, government buildings, churches, local athletic events, public universities, etc. Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin reviewed the act and agreed that Arkansas is a permitless carry state but an enhanced license is necessary for those places mentioned in the enhanced license law. He stated that Act 777 is "a step in the right direction, but more work could be done in future sessions to make it easier to understand the law."
As a reminder, you cannot carry weapons (even with an enhanced license) on public or private school property, school buses, police departments, sheriff's offices, in courtrooms, on certain federal property, and any other prohibited places mentioned in the Arkansas state statutes. Also, property owners can place "no weapon" signs up on their property/business. The laws on where you can legally carry a handgun are a bit confusing so a good reference point is the Arkansas State Police website and they have a list of the prohibited places and other information about concealed handgun carry at http://www.dps.arkansas.gov/.../concealed-handgun-carry.../ .
So, since you can carry a handgun in Arkansas without a concealed handgun carrying license, then why get one? There are several reasons. First, approximately 36 to 38 states (I have seen both numbers) give Arkansas reciprocity for the Arkansas concealed handgun carrying license so having the license will allow you to carry a concealed handgun in those states. Second, having the license makes it easier to purchase a firearm when it comes to the background check. Third, if you want to carry in those extra places under the enhanced concealed carry, you must attend both the concealed carry and enhanced concealed carry classes and get an enhanced concealed handgun carrying license.