- Associated Press - Thursday, March 12, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas House members advanced a trio of gun bills Thursday that would greatly expand where concealed firearms are allowed and provide protections for those who use lethal force.

The House voted 80-4 to allow certain elected officials to be armed at courthouses where they work and 68-9 in favor of allowing concealed weapons in most public parking lots, including universities, schools, parks and the Capitol. Those bills are headed to the Senate.

Jails and prisons are exempted under Republican Rep. Michelle Gray’s parking lot bill, which would bring guns closer to pretty much every public building. She said the current law blocks some people from bringing their weapons with them while traveling.

“I’ve got a concealed carry permit, I’ve got five children — every time I go to a ball game I’m not allowed to take my weapon,” Gray said. “Essentially, my Second Amendment rights are stripped because it would be unlawful for me to have that weapon in my vehicle.”

Democratic Rep. Mary Broadaway of Paragould said it’s safer not to have weapons at courthouses and football games.

“What this bill does is interjects really quick access to firearms in the most emotionally-charged and volatile situations we face as a society,” Broadaway said.

Republican Rep. Tim Lemons of Cabot said his courthouse bill could allow the six officials elected countywide, including the judge and clerk, to carry concealed guns. The official would have to have a concealed carry license and the county would have to allow the weapons.

Lemons said more guns in the building could help deter mass shootings and specifically referenced a 2011 incident at the Van Buren Courthouse where a man injured a secretary before police fatally wounded him.

Arkansas residents who use deadly force in self-defense could be protected from civil lawsuits and court expenses under a bill endorsed by members of the House Judiciary Committee. The proposal by Republican Rep. Dwight Tosh of Jonesboro was initially cast as a “stand-your-ground” bill but was heavily amended to solely focus on civil lawsuits.

People who legally use deadly force would be immune from civil action under the proposal. It could also require the court to award attorney’s fees, income compensation and other compensation to defendants. That bill is headed to the House floor.


Follow Allen Reed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Allen_Reed

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