SHERWOOD, Ark. – Firing a semi-automatic Glock 19 may look easy.
Load it. Point it. Shoot it.
But not everyone can legally carry the weapon and pull the trigger.
With enhanced carry on the horizon, political reporter Jessi Turnure got her concealed carry license to prepare.
According to Arkansas State Police, she will be among more than 225,000 permit holders in the state.
To conceal carry, Arkansans have to submit an application to state police with their fingerprints and training certificate.
Turnure took viewers through her five-hour class to show what it takes and ask, “Is it added security or added risk?”
“I was robbed at gunpoint, and I just felt completely defenseless,” she said.
“I don’t want to run into that situation and not have one and wish I did,” said Alex Lefever, one of her CHCL classmates.
Turnure and Lefever were two of 14 in their concealed carry class. Everyone wanted to do it for defense. But for Turnure, her journalistic curiosity ultimately won her over.
“The only people allowed to get the enhanced carry are the people with concealed carry anyway so I just wanted to get into a class, take the class myself to show these are the people who show up, this is why they show up,” she said.
Before she could shoot, Nathan House, the owner of Arkansas Armory and a CHCL instructor for the past seven years, took Turnure through all of the proper ways to safely handle a gun, starting first with the golden rule.
“Treat every gun just like they’re loaded,” House said.
Several other important rules followed: always keep it pointed in the safest direction, your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot and the gun unloaded until ready to fire.
“It takes three things to make a gun go off: a person, a gun and ammo,” House said.
After giving Turnure a full tutorial of how to load and unload a gun and check the chamber for stray bullets, the CHCL holder for nearly 20 years then handed the gun over to her.
“Alright, where’s your index finger at?” House asked.
Turnure’s finger was on the trigger, right where it shouldn’t be. After another try, she passed.
“Now that’s how you unload a pistol safely,” House said.
The duo then moved on to the shooting fundamentals: stance, trigger control and sight alignment.
“Nice and smooth and level,” House said. “Ready to go shoot?”
The trick is taking all of this to the range.
“Your job is exactly the same it was just a minute ago,” House said.
Turnure first had to pass a shooting test with two hands.
“Perfect shot!,” House said. “Right in the X.”
But she still needed some help with form.
“Make sure nothing gets in the way of that slide,” House said.
Turnure shot with her right hand then her left, emptying a total of 30 rounds.
“You fired 30 shots and you hit 30 shots,” House said. “Not bad at all. We’re going to go to class now, okay?”
Turnure then holstered the adrenaline and hit the books. For the next four hours, House, also a law enforcement officer, broke down who can conceal carry.
“You can’t have an active warrant for your arrest,” he told the class.
House rattled off the rest, including an alcohol or drug problem, mental issues and domestic violence charges. Concealed carry license holders also have to be 21 years or older and pass a background check.
“You’ve got to understand that whenever that firearm is in your hand, you’re taking a level of responsibility for your own life at that point,” he said.
House also stressed why Arkansans carry.
“We’re shooting to stop people,” he said. “Not to kill people.”
House reiterated using deadly force should be the absolute last resort, as a sign popped up on his PowerPoint that read, “Carry daily. Apply sparingly.”
“I pray to God that something happens between me drawing that firearm and me pressing that trigger all the way to the rear that something changes, and I don’t have to use that gun,” he said.
What makes a concealed carry holder a good or bad guy surprised many in Turnure’s class. One Arkansas law in particular states licensees cannot use deadly force if someone is trying to kill their pet because it is considered property.
“That kind of irked me to say the least,” Lefever said.
In other scenarios, permit holders start out as heroes then if they can retreat but shoot instead, they are criminals in the eyes of the law.
“It’s hard,” Turnure said. “You don’t realize how you’re going to react in some of these situations.”
That’s why House cautioned the class to never trust anyone else with a gun.
“I’ll tell you this, a month does not go by that I don’t have a loaded gun pointed at me,” he said.
The culprits: his own customers.
“I’ll ask, ‘Can I see your gun please?,'” House said. “I’ll look at it, no magazine in it. I’ll take it, rack the slide and pull a round out of the chamber. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m so embarrassed.’ Well, tell that to my babies. I want to go home at the end of the day, and I want y’all to go home, too. Complacency is what gets people hurt.”
All 14 students passed the class, with 13 convinced armed doesn’t mean dangerous.
“When you have courses that teach you exactly what to do, how to react and when to just walk away versus when to actually draw a firearm, that is what’s going to create a safer environment for everybody,” Lefever said.
Leaving one, Turnure, still with questions on whether to give it a shot.
“Would this be something that gives me a peace of mind or would it be something that puts me on edge?,” she asked.
State police have posted the entire concealed carry training manual on its website.
The training to get the enhanced license will be much more intense. Turnure was the only one in her class getting the concealed carry permit to prepare for the upcoming enhancement.
The draft rules include six hours in the classroom and two at the range. Students will have to pass a skilled marksmanship test based on time and distance and learn how to work with police during active shooter events.
Several concealed carry holders Turnure spoke to at the range said they have been shooting their entire lives but probably won’t be able to pass the shooting test.
“There’s a lot that has to happen before we can do that,” House said. “Before any of the instructors can teach the class, we’ve got to go back down and pass another test. If a concealed carry instructor does not pass the enhanced carry test, they can’t be a regular concealed carry instructor or an enhanced carry instructor.”
House said he currently has about 120 concealed carry permit holders on a waiting list at Arkansas Armory for enhanced carry, which he expects to grow to more than a thousand by the time instructors can start offering classes in January. He plans to offer training ahead of time to prepare Arkansans for the marksmanship test.
If and when they get the enhancement, licensees will only have to renew their concealed carry license every five years, which is already standard protocol.
For more information about the enhanced carry license, check out Turnure’s story from the latest state police meeting with dozens of the state’s 1,000 instructors.
While the state requires a license to carry a concealed handgun, Attorney General Leslie Rutledge ruled Act 746 allows Arkansans to open carry without a license.
House said if concealed carry holders open carry, they would lose their permit. However, others disagree, arguing Act 746 also protects their license.