Mickey Gates, a Republican representative from Arkansas, has proposed that lawmakers licensed to carry concealed handguns should be allowed to carry their weapons into the Arkansas capitol.
In addition, he believes that all publicly owned facilities in the state should allow concealed carry, with the exception of prisons. He is currently unarmed when he travels from his home to the capitol, because he is not allowed to carry his firearm into the building, and fears that if he leaves his weapon in his car it will be stolen.
He claims that he feels safer when armed, and that because some of the discussions in the capitol are emotionally charged, there could be trouble if there are no guards around.
Arkansas legislators are currently not searched when they enter the capitol building, although most other people who visit are searched for weapons. Though some lawmakers appear to have been given exemptions to carry firearms in the building, in the majority of cases these people had previously worked in law enforcement.
His proposal has drawn criticism. Some have pointed out that the capitol building already employs armed guards to protect those inside. In addition, the searches and metal detectors that most people are subjected to should keep weapons out of the capitol.
Keith Ingram, a Senator of West Memphis, is against the measure. He told the Guardian that he did not know of any other lawmakers who wanted to carry their weapon into the building.
A year ago, security officials at the Oklahoma capitol complained that several Republican lawmakers were refusing to comply with weapons searches. They were also concerned that this seems to be a growing trend.
There have been several incidents over the past few years with lawmakers bringing loaded weapons to their place of work. In New Hampshire in January, Republican representative Carolyn Halstead accidentally dropped a loaded weapon on the floor, though luckily it did not fire and caused no injuries.
In the same month, a loaded gun was left in a committee room in Kansas by Willie Dove. It was found by a secretary after several minutes.
The proposal that Arkansas lawmakers be permitted to carry weapons into the capitol comes amidst several new proposals on gun rights. Many Republican lawmakers are proposing changing or repealing laws since the GOP gained majorities in both chambers in last November’s election.
For instance, some have proposed that the license requirements for concealed carry be abandoned, letting gun owners carry concealed weapons without a license. Others have said that concealed carry should be allowed on college campuses, but this last measure has faced resistance from the National Rifle Association, who have concerns over age and training requirements.
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