LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- As Americans, it's our right to bear arms. The Second Amendment allows Americans to possess a firearm and use it for traditional, lawful purposes. But there's no federal law that addresses carrying guns in public.
49 States have passed laws allowing citizens to do so, including Arkansas. Some states have no restrictions on carrying guns while others require you to get a license. Arkansas is one of those states that requires a permit to carry a handgun in public. Plus, It must also be concealed.
Chuck Lawson is no stranger to firearms.
"My dad owned a gun shop back in Indiana when I was kid so, like I said, I've been around it since I was about ten, eleven years old," says Lawson who has worked as a gun salesman at Don's Weaponry in Little Rock for twelve years.
Lawson says he has watched the fall and rise of gun sales.
"A lot of ladies come in, have no idea, have never picked up a firearm before in their lives and going, 'I need something to protect myself. I need a gun in my house and can you show me how to use it?' We see a lot of that," says Lawson.
In 1995, Arkansas legislators decided guns should be allowed not only in your home, but in your pocket.
"It was kind of the opinion that we need to get a law that says something. It needs to address it. You can either carry or you can't carry. These are the circumstances," says Dr. Jeff Walker, Chair of the Criminal Justice Department at UALR.
He says a nationwide movement in the late 1990s and early 2000s prompted Arkansas to start issuing concealed carry licenses to qualified applicants.
"In Arkansas, we had this law that said if you were on a journey, you could carry a handgun. But what a journey meant was really open to discussion and legal interpretation, so states starting passing concealed carry laws," says Dr. Walker.
Arkansas law requires a person to get a concealed handgun license in order to carry a handgun legally on their person.
In 1996, after the law went into effect, Arkansas State Police distributed 7,140 licenses. In 2008, they issued nearly 14,000. But in 2009, the number of people getting a concealed carry license took a drastic jump to just short of 25,000 new licenses.
Lawson says those license holders began buying firearms, too.
"The biggest increase I ever saw in handgun sales was right after Obama got elected and gun sales just went through the roof. Normally, when you see gun sales go up, it's because people are scared," says Lawson.
With a new president, Dr. Walker says Americans became concerned that gun laws would change but it that wasn't the case.
"The president doesn't really have anything to do with it. It's congress and congress wasn't going to change that much, but there was the perception," says Dr. Walker.
Dr. Walker adds the increase could also be attributed to the momentum of the new law. In 1996, only a handful of qualified firearm instructors gave the course required to receive an Arkansas concealed carry permit. Today, there are more than three-hundred instructors in the state.
But the question opponents of the law raise is whether Arkansans, in an effort to become safer, have actually become more dangerous.
"There doesn't seem to be a lot of change in crime rate based on the amount of carry. There's really not enough evidence to show that concealed carry has anything to do with crime. People that want to carry guns are going to carry guns. They are either going to do it legally or illegally," says Dr. Walker.
But Dr. Walker warns having a gun and a license to use it is not a safety guarantee.
"You have to train with it. You have to think about what you're doing. You have to be aware. Those are all the important things that truly keep people safe," says Dr. Walker.
Gun shop workers like Lawson agree.
"Not everyone is cut out to carry a firearm and the checks and balances we have now are just about right," says Lawson who adds handguns are a tool for protection and peace of mind, not an excuse to go Wild West.
"I've got one myself and I do carry a concealed handgun. I hope I never have to use it. You know, the most I ever want to do with a handgun is poke holes in paper but if I ever have to use it, I will," says Lawson.
In order to receive a concealed carry license in Arkansas, you must complete a training course and apply for the license. Some states have open carry laws that allow citizens to carry weapons in plain sight.
Currently Illinois and the District of Columbia are the only states that do not allow citizens or visitors to carry weapons.
For a list of the states where Arkansas' concealed carry license is valid, visit the Arkansas State Police website. However, when carrying in those states, you are subject to their laws which do vary from state to state. Be sure to research those laws before traveling with a weapon.
Arkansas State Police has lots of information about getting your Arkansas conceal carry license online.