Open carry bill fails again


LITTLE ROCK — A bill to allow Arkansans who have concealed handgun permits to carry handguns openly in rural, unincorporated areas of the state failed for the second time Tuesday to clear a House committee.

House Bill 1408 by Rep. Sue Scott, R-Rogers, failed in the House Judiciary Committee in a 10-5 vote. It needed 11 votes to clear the 20-member committee.

In its original version, the bill would not have been limited to unincorporated areas, but Scott narrowed the scope of the measure to try to win support. Despite the change, the bill failed in the committee on Feb. 26 and again Tuesday.

Scott told the committee she supports statewide open carry but said her amended bill was a “first step” toward that goal. She testified that the Arkansas State Police and the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police, which previously opposed the bill, now supported it.

However, Maj. J.R. Hankins of the Arkansas State Police testified that the agency continues to oppose the bill and said the Association of Chiefs of Police does as well.

“We oppose any open carry law based on officer safety,” he said.

James Mashburn of East End, who came to the meeting wearing a leather vest and cowboy hat, testified in support of the bill.

“When you’ve got your grandkids or something in a wagon or on horses and you’ve got a pack of dogs come out and start gnawing at your horses’ feet, you need some way to get rid of the dogs,” Mashburn said. “I’m not saying kill the dogs, but one shot’ll run ‘em off. Now I’m not opposed to killing dogs, don’t get me wrong.”

Scott said after the hearing that she sincerely believed her bill had law enforcement support. She said her push for an open carry law is over for now but that if she is back for the 2015 session she will bring it up again.