LITTLE ROCK — Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe ripped Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr on Tuesday for signing into law a bill closing concealed handgun records to the public in his absence, a move Darr said was necessary because Beebe was lax in upholding gun rights.
The partisan dust up stemmed from a quirk in Arkansas’ 1874 constitution in which the lieutenant governor serves as acting governor when the chief executive is out of state.
With Beebe in Washington for a National Governors Association meeting, Darr on Friday signed into law legislation that exempts the names and ZIP codes of concealed handgun permit holders and applicants from the state Freedom of Information Act.
Beebe had said before he left the state that he would allow the measure to become law without his signature on Monday, but Darr said the law was too important to wait. House Bill 131 by Sen. Bruce Holland, R-Greenwood, became Act 145 of 2013 with his signature.
Beebe, who returned to the state Monday evening, said Tuesday that Darr had "embarrassed himself."
"Totally inappropriate for him to sign it," the governor said.
"I always thought we had a pretty decent relationship," Beebe said. "Obviously, I’ll be much more careful. You can’t turn your back now … and so, people that are going to do stuff like that you have to watch, you can’t turn your back on them."
Darr said Tuesday he did the right thing in signing the bill after Beebe refused to do so.
"I think the citizens of Arkansas deserve more than that," Darr said. "I think that they don’t need a governor that is lax on the issue of their privacy and the Second Amendment, and to be honest with you, him saying that is kind of Washington-style politics of name-calling and I don’t have time for that."
Darr noted the bill overwhelmingly passed both chambers of the Legislature, 24-9 in the Senate and 84-9 in the House.
But Beebe compared the lieutenant governor’s actions to those of former state Sen. Pro Tem Jerry Jewell, a Little Rock Democrat who in 1993 granted executive clemency to two convicts and pardoned two others. Jewell was acting governor because Gov. Jim Guy Tucker was in Washington for President Clinton’s inauguration.
The state had no lieutenant governor at the time because Tucker had ascended from lieutenant governor when Clinton resigned as the state’s chief executive after winning the White House.