LITTLE ROCK — A bill to allow Arkansans with concealed handgun permits to carry their weapons openly stalled in a House committee Tuesday, even after the sponsor amended it to limit open carry to rural, unincorporated areas.
House Bill 1408 by Rep. Sue Scott, R-Rogers, received 9 votes, two votes short of an endorsement by the 20-member House Judiciary Committee. Eight members voted against it.
Scott said she narrowed the scope of the legislation to get more support because House Speaker Davy Carter, R-Cabot, and Gov. Mike Beebe had both said they were opposed to allowing open carry. She said the amended bill wouldn’t interfere with the state’s concealed permit law.
Scott’s original proposal would have automatically allowed everyone with a concealed handgun permit to be licensed to carry openly.
Col. Stan Witt, the state police director, spoke against the measure. saying "officer safety reasons" were a major concern.
"If a person is allowed to open carry, that would likely cause an officer to wonder whether that person is legally carrying or not. That critical second could cost an officer his life," Witt said. "If we respond to a situation where gunshots are involved, and we get there and there are several others with open carry, how long is it going to take us to find who the bad guy is?"
George Holt with the Arkansas River Valley Gun Club spoke for the bill.
Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, said he supported the measure and noted that a friend’s wife often went running in the national forest and would like to be able to carrying a weapon for protection.