Arkansas bill that would allow city fire department bomb squads to conceal carry, make arrests during threats passes committee

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.— A bill that would allow city fire department bomb squads to conceal carry and make arrests during explosive threats advanced through a House committee Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Stephen Meeks, was presented Tuesday morning. Meeks was accompanied by Todd Cardin, the Conway Fire Department’s Bomb Squad Commander.

Cardin said a bomb technician recently accompanied an ATF agent on a Perry County call where homemade explosives were found in someone’s house.

“The owner of the property came up, he was armed, and my bomb tech was not and an ATF agent was,” Cardin said. “If something would’ve happened to the ATF agent, my guy would’ve been unprotected. That’s why we’re here today.”

If passed, the law would only apply in situations where bomb technicians are responding to threats. Meeks said Arkansas’ open-carry status means the techs could technically have a gun on them at any point, but this will allow them to concealed carry if the situation depends on it.

State legislators from both parties expressed some concerns over the bill’s language and potential impacts.

Rep. Jimmy Gazaway said the required training needs to be effective. He said that otherwise undisciplined technicians could make a situation worse.

Rep. Jamie Scott said some of her constituents said they are not completely on board with this bill.

“I’ve talked to a couple police officers who said they thought this might create more issues,” Scott said.

Cardin said the training protocol is sufficient for carrying a weapon and making an arrest. He said he was happy lawmakers in the committee were put at ease.

“They’re doing their due diligence, whatever their beliefs are,” Cardin said. “I respect it.”

Cardin said that this law would protect bomb technicians who fear for their lives every time they respond to a call. “I won’t be a bomb tech forever,” Cardin said. “When I leave, I want to protect my guys and have them protected.”