LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A newly-filed bill would allow survivors of domestic abuse to get a concealed carry license faster than other Arkansans. 

The legislation, sponsored by St. Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, would allow these women and men to get an expedited and temporary concealed carry license (CCL).

“For a lot of people, the ultimate form of empowerment is being able to protect themselves from those who abuse them,” Garner said. 

Under the legislation, survivors who have petitioned for an order of protection would apply for the license, and Arkansas State Police would have a day to approve or deny them via the background check all concealed carry applicants undergo. However, they would not have to complete the training.

The temporary license would be valid for 45 days.

While researching the legislation, Garner, who has his CCL and the enhancement on his permit, came across an instructor who has taught hundreds of domestic violence survivors.

“This really stuck out to me. He said they would always say when their abusers saw a gun, they went away,” Garner said.

The executive director of two domestic violence shelters in the capital city, who also has her CCL, estimated half of the women she takes in are also survivors of violence involving guns or knives. She doesn’t know if weapons are the answer here. 

“I know that if I was in a place where I was that mentally strained, I would probably not want somebody to hand me my weapon,” said Dorcas VanGilst, the executive director of the Union Rescue Mission. “When someone first told me about this bill, I was immediately like, ‘Ooh, hmm. That sounds a little tricky. That sounds risky to me.'”

For the past 12 years, VanGilst has met women at the most vulnerable and dangerous point in their lives: when they leave their abuser.

“That’s just a mentally very stressful time so it’s hard to have a good judgment period,” she said. “But when you’re saying you’re trying to now have good judgment about life and death, that’s even trickier.”

VanGilst said she understands the spirit of the bill but cannot endorse it for all survivors of domestic violence. She would rather see legislation that increases funding for safe houses or training and safety plans.

“These women are incredibly tough,” VanGilst said. “They’re just blind to the real situation. They’re blind to their own worth.” 

Garner expects to run the bill in the next two weeks.