Arkansas Carry plans ‘open carry’ protest walk (Updated)

Editor's note: Updated with comment from Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey.

Arkansas Carry members plan to make a statement on Aug. 24 about their disagreement with Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s view that Act 746 does not allow open carry of firearms in the state.

Act 746, passed earlier this year in the regular session of the 89th General Assembly, made technical corrections to laws related to possession of handguns. In mid June, Arkansas Carry issued a statement saying the new law would allow for open carry of handguns in Arkansas on Aug. 16.

McDaniel’s office issued an opinion on July 8 saying that Act 746 does not make legal the open carry of a handgun. In the opinion, requested by Sen. Eddie Joe Williams, R-Cabot, McDaniel said just because someone may be going on a journey, which is defined as "beyond the county in which the person lives," it does not mean that they are able to openly carry a firearm on his or her waist.

"To the contrary, the journey exception applies only to 'travel beyond the county in which a person lives' – a narrow range of activity inconsistent with the concept of 'open carry,’" McDaniel noted in the opinion.

McDaniel also said the journey rule generally applied to keeping a weapon within a vehicle, not on an individual.

Steve Jones, chairman of Arkansas Carry, panned McDaniel’s opinion.

"Arkansas Carry finds the AG Opinion 2013-047 one of the worst written opinions to ever come out of the Arkansas Attorney General office. Besides being very incoherent, all of the opinions were based on assumptions, and were devoid of examples of pertinent state law or previous judicial rulings."

To protest the AG opinion, around 12 members of Arkansas Carry will meet near Fort Smith at 9 a.m. on Aug. 24, to conduct an “open carry walk” along a portion of Massard Road at Chaffee Crossing. The plan, which is subject to change, will have the walkers meet at Ben Geren Park near the road. From there, the participants will legally conceal their weapons until they reach Massard Road through the park’s walking trails. (Sebastian County does not allow open carry at the park.)

Once the walkers leave the park, they will carry the handguns in the open as they walk on the sidewalk a short distance down Massard Road. According to Jones, the Fort Smith Police Department may have a patrol car present in case someone “is alarmed by open handguns.”

“We don’t want to make it difficult for the city of Fort Smith and the Fort Smith Police Department. We just want to make a statement about the Second Amendment and Act 746,” Jones said.

UPDATED INFO: Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey said his department “would not enforce the terms of the Act” based on McDaniel’s opinion. Lindsey said he was told by John Settle, Fort Smith prosecuting attorney, that “just carrying it unconcealed is not enough” to cause an arrest. Lindsey told The City Wire that he and Settle’s view is that there has to be proof an “attempt to unlawfully use” a weapon against another person.

Lindsey said the department would have a patrol car in the area during the walk.