story by Aric Mitchell
Gun Rights group Arkansas Carry alleges that the city of Fort Smith violated portions of Arkansas law (A.C.A. Sections 14-16-504 and 14-54-1411) with its prohibition on the carry of firearms at public parks.
The allegation came in the form of a letter calling for the repeal of Sections 18-67, 18-75, and 7-29 of the Fort Smith Municipal Code, which prohibit firearm possession in parks and cemeteries.
On Monday (Jan. 14), The City Wire asked Fort Smith Administrator Ray Gosack to weigh in on the matter, but was told the legal staff was “looking at this to make sure their 2009 opinion is still valid” and that Gosack would respond “after I hear back from them.”
Arkansas Carry is basing its argument on A.C.A. Section 14-54-1411, which states “A local unit of government shall not enact any ordinance or regulation pertaining to, or regulate in any other manner, the ownership, transfer, transportation, carrying, or possession of firearms, ammunition for firearms, or components of firearms, except as otherwise provided in state or federal law.”
But it’s this last part that city attorney Wyman Wade latched on to in the 2009 opinion Gosack mentioned.
Wyman maintained that 14-54-1411 “expressly excepts the provisions in state law providing to the contrary.”
Some of those provisions include A.C.A. Section 5-73-306, supra, which indicates “that a concealed handgun, carried by someone with a concealed handgun permit, can be prohibited in a municipal location” if that prohibition is denoted with a sign per the stipulation of the section, Wyman said.
Furthermore, A.C.A. Section 5-73-122, “makes it unlawful for any person other than law enforcement and security personnel identified in said statute ‘to knowingly carry or possess a loaded firearm or other deadly weapon in any publicly owned building or facility,’” Wyman adds.
The statute defines “facility” as a “municipally owned or maintained park, football field, baseball field, soccer field, or another similarly municipally owned or maintained recreational structure or property.”
“The City of Fort Smith may preclude from public parks other firearms (other than concealed handguns, which require the posting of a sign) without the necessity of posting a sign. The prohibition against carrying firearms into a public ‘facility’ is also consistent with the provisions of A.C.A. Sections 14-16-504 and 14-54-1411 in that it falls into the category of ‘except as otherwise provided in state…law,” Wyman’s opinion concluded.
‘LEGISLATIVE INTENT’ IS CLEAR
Arkansas Carry is not convinced.
“Contrary to Mr. Wade’s opinion, there exists no current state law that specifically ‘provides’ a city the authority to pass ordinances that ban the carry of firearms on any city property, especially parks,” said Arkansas Carry Chairman Steve D. Jones, adding that A.C.A. 14-54-1411 was passed “in 1993…solely to unify gun laws and make them regular across the state.”
“Its intent is to allow consistency of firearms laws across the state, and allows a state traveler the ability to know those laws,” Jones said.
Following passage of the 1993 law, Jones believes that “any city ordinance banning firearms” is “powerless.”
Jones continued: “In 1995, the CHCL (concealed carry law) was passed, and a ‘prohibited places’ list was created. The legislative reasoning of the list was that any location or event listed in this law was a place where the carry of concealed firearms was prohibited, even with a license.”
Jones noted that municipal parks were on the original list, but that Act 1110, passed by the 84th Arkansas General Assembly in 2003, permitted the carry of a concealed handgun into a restaurant or public park.
“The legislative intent is clear here. Act 1110 allows all CHCL permit holders to carry in a city park,” Jones said. “Many Arkansas municipalities have tried to ban concealed firearms from city parks; none of these methods have worked.
In 2009, Arkansas Carry convinced Sebastian County to remove their firearms law from the county code. In 2012, the cities of Russellville and Conway considered passing firearms ordinances, but these plans were dropped after Arkansas Carry informed them of the illegality of these laws.”