SHERWOOD, Ark. – Nearly 200 Arkansans can now carry guns in public colleges and sporting events, common areas of airports, even the state capitol.
According to Arkansas State Police, these concealed carry holders now have the red “enhanced” stamped on their licenses.
Political reporter Jessi Turnure got her concealed carry license in November to be one of the first to take the new enhanced carry course.
Instructors began offering it earlier this month, after they passed a 50-question test on the rules and regulations in January.
Meanwhile, gun threats at Arkansas schools shot up to 18 Thursday since the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at a Florida high school.
Some point to the new enhanced carry law as a deterrent, but others argue more guns only add to the confusion.
Turnure went through the training to let viewers decide.
“One shot. Two seconds. Ready?,” said Nathan House, one of the first enhanced carry instructors in the state.
She and her 20 classmates at Arkansas Armory’s first enhanced carry class heard a beep, fired a shot, then another beep.
Stage one of House’s shooting qualification does that five times, then two shots in three seconds five times and five shots in ten seconds, for a total of 20 rounds from the three-yard line.
Stage two pushes the target back to the seven-yard line.
“Next exercise: Five shots. Ten seconds,” House said. “Five shots. Ten seconds. Ready?”
The students then fire two shots in four seconds, three shots in six seconds, one shot in three seconds five times and five shots in 15 seconds, for a total of 20 rounds.
For the third and final stage, they shoot at a 15-yard target.
“Two shots. Six seconds,” House said, followed by three shots in nine seconds and five shots in 15 seconds for a total of ten rounds.
If they hit at least 35 of the 50 rounds in the seven ring, these concealed carry holders pass.
“I was a little concerned about the timeframe in which you had to shoot, but it really gives you enough time to fire proficiently,” said Tom Whitehead.
“The 15 yard is a little far out there, but I think it’s just overall,” said Sherrie Carroll. “You’ve got these chances to do it. You want to do good. Plus, I try to beat my husband when I can.”
“He only beat me by three so that’s okay,” Carroll said. “That’s not too bad. I was really nervous so…”
But Carroll with a 44 and Whitehead with a 49 both passed, giving them a license to carry their weapon in once gun-free zones.
“It’s not your job to be the police officer,” Whitehead said. “To me, it’s a deterrent. It’s almost the same reason the government puts U.S. marshals on an airplane. You don’t know who’s carrying.”
“You should be able to carry where you want to,” Carroll said. “It’s not fair to be where you can and where you can’t because the places that aren’t going to allow it is where it typically happens.”
If and when it happens, these average citizens are armed and ready.
“The time it would take from the time somebody approached you to the police arrived on scene, everyone could be killed,” Whitehead said.
“In the perfect world, probably guns shouldn’t be here,” Carroll said. “But we don’t live in the perfect world so I have the right to protect myself and my family. I also have the right to protect maybe other people who can’t protect themselves.”
The rest of their class shares that burden. They all passed.
This was Turnure’s third time shooting a gun, and it showed.
It took her three times to pass.
She failed the first time miserably and missed by one point on the second. But now, she is included in that number.
“Thirty-eight minus one is 37,” House said as he counted up the holes in the target. “You passed!”
“Yay! Third time’s the charm,” Turnure said.
“That’s right, that’s right,” House said.
“That’s all you get, too,” Turnure said.
If she failed the third time, Turnure would have to wait 90 days before giving the training another shot.
But after signing off on their targets, the only thing left for the classmates to do is learn the ins and outs of the new law in a six-hour class. Then they get the “enhanced” stamped on their concealed carry license.
“I hope I never have to use my weapon,” Whitehead said. “But at least I’ve got the training and the proficiency in the range if I had to use it, I could.”
This will not be their last time running through this shooting sequence.
“People get it, and they think that’s all the need to do,” Carroll said. “If you’re going to carry, you need to practice, you need to stay consistent with your training so you don’t forget.”
The enhancement also allows licensees to carry inside dorm rooms as long as they do not store their guns there.
The weapons are still prohibited in courtrooms, prisons, K-12 public schools, public pre-K programs and day cares.
Private colleges, churches, bars and any other privately-owned businesses can opt out with signs or by verbally telling license holders they cannot carry on the premises.
College sporting events can also opt out if state police approve the schools’ security plans.