Arkansas ranks high in gun deaths, but restrictions limited

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In this Sept. 23, 2017 photo provided by Centinel Solutions, a model displays a camera mounted below the barrel of a handgun in New York. Some police departments are considering putting cameras on officers’ guns, saying they would give a better, unobstructed view of police-involved shootings and save money on video storage costs compared with body cameras. (Gavin Smith/Centinel Solutions via AP)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas residents die by gunfire at a rate higher than 43 other states, but state lawmakers aren’t considering weapons restrictions, according to a recent newspaper analysis.

Arkansas’ gun-death rate was 16 per 100,000 people from 1999 through 2016, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported . The newspaper examined 17 years of federal mortality data to determine if lower gun-death rates correlated with the existence of five laws experts say could reduce gun violence.

The analysis showed that the four states with the lowest gun-death rates have enacted at least one of the laws, which include background checks, waiting periods, safe storage, reporting lost or stolen guns and allowing temporary gun seizures from people considered a threat.

None of the five laws have received serious consideration by Arkansas lawmakers during the two most recent legislative sessions. State lawmakers have instead focused the debate on preventing rampage shootings.

State records show Arkansas lawmakers haven’t filed one bill in the past decade requiring universal background checks or waiting periods. Arkansas is one of 33 states that do not require a background check to purchase a gun in every instance, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

“For me, to be honest, I never thought to spend my time filing legislation if I knew that it was not likely,” said Democratic Rep. Vivian Flowers. “Not only not likely to pass, but also likely to be used against me and my colleagues, politically, to move them out of office.”

Republican lawmakers who support lax restrictions on gun ownership argue putting more controls on purchasing firearms will not effectively deter crime.

“I know there’s a cool-down effect they say will come (with waiting periods), but when I buy something — a weapon — I want to have access to it as soon as possible,” said Republican Sen. Trent Garner.

A red flag law, which is an extreme risk order of protection, is the only gun legislation proposal gaining noticeable traction from Arkansas lawmakers. Democratic Rep. Greg Leding and Sen. Will Bond have drafted a proposal they plan to pitch to lawmakers.

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