A new bill has been introduced into the Arkansas legislature that aims to provide a way for individuals to restore their rights to own a firearm after being convicted of a criminal offense.
Sponsored by Sen. Gary Stubblefield, Senate Bill 645 has bipartisan support in the legislature with Democrats Sen. Vivian Flowers and Sen. Keith Ingram sponsoring the bill alongside Republicans Sen. Ronald Caldwell, Sen. Mark Johnson, Sen. Dan Sullivan, Rep. Justin Boyd, Rep. Michelle Gray, Rep. Jon Milligan and Rep. DeAnn Vaught.
Under this legislation, individuals would be permitted to file a “uniform petition” to restore their firearm rights 10 years after completing their sentence for felonies. However, several felony types are excluded, including homicide, a felony that requires an individual to register as a sex offender, a felony involving violence under Arkansas Code 5-4-501(d)(2)
With this petition, individuals can seek to “discharge, dismiss and seal” a felony or felonies that occurred in the same criminal occurrence. Felonies that have no casual connection cannot be sealed.
This petition would be filed in the circuit court of the county in which the relevant felony occurred and in which the individual was convicted. The circuit court would be responsible for considering the case based on its merits after reinvesting jurisdiction in the case. The circuit court would be required to notify the county’s prosecuting attorney, who is able to file a notice of opposition, and the court must wait 30 days after the court notice is served before signing any orders.
If approved, the circuit court would remove “all petitions, orders, docket sheets, receipts, and documents” pertaining to the felony conviction and sequester those records in a confidential hold area in the circuit court clerk’s office. A replacement docket sheet would be prepared, which would contain information related to the sealed felony conviction and a statement that the conviction had been discharged, dismissed and sealed.
The prosecuting attorney would also be required to remove the individual’s entire case file and documents pertaining to the felony conviction to a confidential holding area within his or her office.
Following a successful petition, the individual would have all firearms privileges restored, including the right to possess a firearm under state law.
The bill was filed on Wednesday, April 7 and was read for the first and second times by the Arkansas Senate. It was then referred to the Senate’s City, County and Local Affairs Committee.