A new law in Arkansas went into effect this year amending the conceal carry statute to allow more veterans the ability to obtain a license. Previously, pursuant to Arkansas Code § 5-73-309 (11) a license could not be obtained by anyone who had been “voluntarily or involuntarily committed into a mental institution or mental health treatment facility.” The recently enacted amendment adds a limited exception to this prohibition for certain veterans. The law now provides that a veteran who voluntarily sought mental health treatment at a mental health institution or mental health treatment facility may petition the Court for an order allowing him or her to obtain a license.
Requirement of Petition
A petitioning veteran must prove to the Court that he or she is mentally fit and that his or her past voluntarily commitment would not currently have a negative impact on his or her ability to responsibly possess a license to carry a concealed handgun.
The petitioner must also provide the Court with a limited medical waiver that allows the court and the prosecuting attorney access to any medical records concerning the petitioner’s health treatment at issue.
The petitioner must present evidence to support the petition to the Court in an open proceeding prior to the Court making a determination. The statute includes the following factors for the Court to consider:
(1) The circumstances that led to the petitioner voluntarily seeking mental health treatment;
(2) The petitioner’s certified mental health records;
(3) The petitioner’s certified criminal history;
(4) The petitioner’s reputation; and
(5) Changes in the petitioner’s condition or circumstances relevant to the petition.
Importantly, the statutes states that the Court shall (i.e. must) grant the petition if it finds by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) the petitioner is not likely to act in a manner that is dangerous to public safety; and (2) granting the petition would not be contrary to the public interest.
Who can Petition?
Not all veterans are allowed to file a petition under this law. In order to have standing to petition under the statute, the petitioner must fall into one of the following categories:
- Served on active duty in the United States Armed Forces for a period of more than 180 days and was discharged or released from active duty with other than a dishonorable discharge;
- Was discharged or released from active duty in the United States Armed Forces because of a service-connected disability; or
- As a member of a reserve component of the United States Armed Forces under an order to active duty, not to include training, was discharged or released from duty with other than a dishonorable discharge.
Any veteran that has filed a petition within the last two years will also be unable to bring a petition, as the law prohibits filing more than one petition every two years.