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Arkansas Governor Expands Concealed Carry Rights

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Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas signed a bill that expanded the number of places people will be allowed to carry concealed weapons, such as bars, colleges, and government buildings -- including the State Capitol.

"This bill, in my view, reflects the will of the General Assembly and is constitutional and will balance public safety and the Second Amendment," Hutchinson said at a news conference after he signed the bill, according to The Associated Press.

The move was applauded by the National Rifle Association.

"This step goes a long way towards recognizing law-abiding people in this state have the right to defend themselves anywhere they have a legal right to be," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action, said at the news conference.

But gun control advocates said the bill makes the general public less safe from gun violence.

"Being one of thousands of Arkansans fighting to stop this dangerous legislation has been an eye-opening experience. I’ve learned that our state legislators -- and even our governor -- listen to the gun lobby over their constituents and the people who will be directly affected by this legislation," said Austin Bailey of the Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety, according to the Arkansas Times.

"That’s something we won’t soon forget. This legislation will make everyday life in Arkansas more dangerous. State legislators should know that passing this gun lobby priority will only motivate supporters of gun sense to get louder in Arkansas -- our kids are at risk and we will not be silent while legislators gamble with their safety.”

Democratic state Rep. Greg Leding agreed with that sentiment and said allowing guns in places like football stadiums could lead to deadly consequences.

"People like to have a good time before the game, during the game, people get emotional and angry during the game," he said. "I think the idea of introducing loaded weapons into those situations is just ridiculous."

The NRA's Cox dismissed the idea that more guns in more places could lead to an increase in gun violence.

"Only criminals can find safety in gun-free zones,” Cox said. “By allowing enhanced permit holders to carry in more places, Gov. Hutchinson has made Arkansas a safer place to live.”

More than 220,000 people in Arkansas have concealed weapon licenses, according to the AP.

The law goes into effect on Sept. 1.

Sources: AP, Arkansas Times / Photo credit: Arkansas Highways/Flickr

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