JONESBORO — A Conway lawyer has sued Arkansas State University over the right to carry a concealed handgun into First National Bank Arena.
Chris P. Corbitt filed suit in Craighead County Circuit Court on Nov. 1. It’s one of several lawsuits Corbitt and his law partner have filed in the last couple of years over gun rights and other issues.
“Plaintiff has a concealed handgun license with enhancement, as well as the right to bear arms under the Arkansas Constitution,” Corbitt wrote in his complaint. “ … Plaintiff desired and desires to enter the arena with his concealed carry firearm but has refrained from and continues to refrain from doing so after specifically learning of the signs prohibiting his entrance … ASU is violating state law under the color of law.”
The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office is defending the university in the case. Assistant Attorney General Carl F. “Trey” Cooper III argued in response that the university can’t permit Corbitt to carry a firearm into the arena because of the presence of alcohol in the building.
“FNB Arena is covered by an Alcohol Beverage Control permit held by the NEA Sports Club,” Cooper wrote. “The NEA Sports Club and the University have an agreement that provides for alcoholic beverages to be dispensed during designated events.
Further statutory and regulatory support for ASU’s position can be found in ABC’s regulations and in Ark. Code Ann. § 3-4-403(21) which states that ‘[p]ossession of a weapon on the permitted premises by a person without a possessory or proprietary interest in the permitted premises’ is a Class A (alcohol) permit violation.
Cooper argued Dec. 16 that the university and the private club would be risking loss of the alcohol permit.
That document prompted an unusual Christmas Day electronic response from Corbitt’s law partner, Robert H. Steinbuch of Little Rock.
“Defendants’ argument is: 1. They leased public land to a private entity at a remarkable sweetheart deal; 2. The private entity chose to serve booze in its rented location; 3. Arkansas’s Beverage Control (ABC) rules don’t allow the sweetheart-deal boozepurveying private entity to allow firearms on premises in which it serves booze if the sweetheart-deal booze-purveying private entity wants to stay in compliance with the ABC rules; 4. And—wait for it—the public entity is now required to ban law-abiding gun owners who are legally entitled to carry firearms in the public facility from that very public facility in which they’re legally entitled to carry firearms.
“That’s some remarkable reverse logic,” Steinbuch said.
No trial date has been set in the case.
Other cases Corbitt and Steinbuch have filed include a lawsuit in May, challenging a state law that prohibits political advertising on vehicles parked on state Capitol grounds. Corbitt and Steinbuch both ran unsuccessfully for state representative seats this year.
“This law regulates a sign on a private vehicle by a political candidate,” the lawsuit states. “This law regulates political speech on a private vehicle that happens to be on the Arkansas State Capitol Grounds …. This law regulates the content of the speech of a political candidate in a public forum on matters of public concern. Arkansas law codified in Ark. Code Ann. §7-1-114 violates the rights of the Plaintiff’s rights to free speech.”
The case has remained dormant since August.
In October, Corbitt filed suit against Pulaski County officials, seeking a ruling over whether lawyers can possess firearms in court.
“Recall, Arkansas §5-73-122(b) states that: ‘a law enforcement officer, either on-duty or off-duty, officer of the court, bailiff, or other person authorized by the court is permitted to possess a handgun in the courtroom of any court or a courthouse of this state.’” Licensed attorneys are considered “officers of the court.”
“However, Judge (Timothy) Fox wrote something very different,” Steinbuch and Corbitt said in their complaint. “He wrote: ‘law enforcement officer, bailiff, or authorized officer of this court, acting in the line of duty.’
That case is still pending.
However, in January, a circuit judge ruled in favor of the Pulaski County sheriff over the same issue. That case is on appeal with the state Supreme Court.
In August 2021, Corbitt filed suit against Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officials.
“This case involves the right of citizens with Enhanced Concealed Carry Licenses (ECCLs) to carry concealed firearms into state-owned Arkansas Game & Fish buildings pursuant to Arkansas law.”
Corbitt said that on Aug. 14, 2021, he was not allowed to enter the firing-range building at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Dr. James E. Moore Jr. Camp Robinson Firing Range in Conway even though he has an enhanced conceal carry permit.
In May, a Pulaski County circuit judge ruled in favor of game and fish, and Corbitt is also appealing that case to the state Supreme Court.