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Gun bill debate dominates last day of Arkansas legislative session

Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock (Photo: KATV){p}{/p}
Arkansas State Capitol in Little Rock (Photo: KATV)

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The final day of the regular session was a virtual shootout over a variety of gun bills aimed at correcting a controversial measure vetoed by Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

Last Friday, Hutchinson vetoed SB 298, a bill that would allow local and state law enforcement to not cooperate with federal law enforcement in certain instances. SB 298, the Arkansas Sovereignty Act of 2021, was sponsored by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, R-Branch, and Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro. On Monday, Stubblefield led the Senate to override that veto after lawmakers argued for an hour on the issues raised by the veto.

On Tuesday (April 27), two new paths were forged regarding the controversial gun rights legislation. HB 1957, supported by House and Senate leadership, sought to clear up concerns raised by prosecutors, sheriffs and the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. Stubblefield presented a new bill, SB 717, which also focused on clearing up legal issues previously raised.

Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, R-Hermitage, was the House sponsor of HB 1957. He said that a number of definitions in the new bill would address concerns. It also added punishments for violators but set up due process for certain circumstances.

“All federal acts, laws, orders, rules, and regulations that were enacted on or after January 1, 2021, that infringe on the enumerated rights under Arkansas Constitution, Article 2, are invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, are specifically rejected by this state, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this state,” the bill states.

“There is nothing I care more about than my family, God and Jesus than my guns.” Wardlaw told House members in committee before the floor vote.

Read more from KATV content partner Talk Business & Politics.

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