DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The state of Arkansas has a law allowing people to carry concealed weapons in churches, in bars, on college campuses, even in the state Capitol. Now, this requires a special permit, as well as training on what to do in an active shooting. Arkansas is the first state to require that kind of training for a gun permit. We have more from Sarah Whites-Koditschek from Arkansas Public Media.
SARAH WHITES-KODITSCHEK, BYLINE: Part one of the training is what's called a live-fire exam. The applicants are shooting at a circle printed on a cutout of a human torso.
NATHAN HOUSE: One shot. Two seconds. Ready?
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WHITES-KODITSCHEK: Proficiency is 70 percent. So far, everyone tested at Shooters University in Sherwood, Ark., has passed. Next up - six hours in the classroom.
HOUSE: So when are you justified in using physical force?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: To defend yourself.
WHITES-KODITSCHEK: The new law makes clear that permit holders aren't obligated to respond in those cases. Trainer Nathan House tells the applicants that the best response to a shooter is to run and to help others escape. But he says having a weapon gives people a last resort.
HOUSE: Make them come to you, right? I mean, if that active shooter decides that they want to come into the room where you're at, you're prepared to defend yourself.
WHITES-KODITSCHEK: Couch (ph) tells the class to be careful not to shoot the wrong person, and then after firing, put their gun away. That way, police don't think they're the shooter. Katrina Allen took the class. She says she's prepared to fight back if she has to.
KATRINA ALLEN: If I'm ever find myself in an active-shooter situation, I do realize that I will take on the responsibility of protecting whoever's around me.
WHITES-KODITSCHEK: Her classmate Seth Mikkelsen says he won't hesitate.
SETH MIKKELSEN: The point of carrying and having a weapon available is to use it.
WHITES-KODITSCHEK: That's not what the state police, who developed the framework for the license training, want to see happen. Spokesman Bill Sadler says the eight hours of training shouldn't make people feel ready to go vigilante. He says innocent bystanders could get hurt, and more people firing guns could make the scene more dangerous and confusing for the real police.
BILL SADLER: The licensee must be able to egress from the active-shooter situation and not necessarily become someone who is going to act as a law enforcement officer might.
WHITES-KODITSCHEK: Some sensitive places that aren't publicly owned, like bars and churches, can opt out. That's what Little Rock First United Methodist Church has done. Senior Pastor Daniel (ph) Freeman says the self-defense mindset just doesn't align with the church's values.
DAVID FREEMAN: It keeps us guarded and focused on fear and keeps us guarded on, what are the dangers out there? - rather than seeing the world through, what are the opportunities for love and to build community?
WHITES-KODITSCHEK: Some safety experts have more practical concerns. For example, more guns in public places could mean they're used more often in suicides or personal conflicts. State Representative Charlie Collins says the important thing is to get guns in the hands of the right people. He sponsored the new law, and he believes more concealed weapons will deter mass shooters. But if there's an attack...
CHARLIE COLLINS: You have the potential for one of these enhanced concealed-carry holders to literally be on scene and to be able to draw a weapon and shoot back.
WHITES-KODITSCHEK: And that, he says, will make Arkansas safer. For NPR News, I'm Sarah Whites-Koditschek in Little Rock.
[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio version of this story, David Freeman is incorrectly identified as Daniel Freeman.]
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