Arkansas Carry will again take its message to the street that Arkansas is now an “open carry” state.
On Aug. 24, between 25 and 30 people with a handgun holstered to their side walked along Massard Road in Fort Smith in the first organized open carry handgun walk in Arkansas.
Arkansas Carry, a group advocating for fewer restrictions on gun possession laws, believes Act 746 allows for open carry of a handgun in Arkansas. The Act, which made technical revisions to Arkansas’ gun laws, was approved in the recent General Assembly.
However, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued an opinion on July 8 saying that Act 746 does not make legal the open carry of a handgun. 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.
Obviously, the leadership of Arkansas Carry disagrees with McDaniel’s opinion. The second walk is planned for 9 a.m., Sept. 7, on Main Street in Van Buren between Cane Hill Street and North 20th Street. The group plans to meet in the parking lot of the Van Buren Public Library.
“In an effort to continue raising awareness of the changes in Arkansas law in the recently passed Act 746 of 2013, members of Arkansas Carry and our supporters will hold a peaceful and lawful awareness walk in Van Buren, Arkansas in Crawford County on September 7, 2013,” noted a statement from Steve Jones, board chairman of Arkansas Carry. “The purpose of this awareness walk is to demonstrate that Act 746 has decriminalized the possession of a handgun in plain view if a person does not intend to use that weapon unlawfully.”
Jones’ announcement included a letter from Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune in which the Prosecutor explains his disagreement with McDaniel’s opinion.
“I, along with several other elected PA's, do not agree with the AG's opinion. We believe that your mental state ‘purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ’ will be the determining factor whether or not a person's open carry is illegal. For example, Saturday's open carry demonstration in Fort Smith, no one was arrested for simply openly possessing the firearm,” McCune wrote.
McCune further explained that an officer could place the agency and local government in a “wrongful arrest lawsuit” if arresting someone carrying a handgun as a right or for self-defense.
“My office will not be prosecuting these cases unless we can prove the mental state: ‘for use with a purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ the handgun,’” McCune said.
McCune’s interpretation is similar to that of Fort Smith Prosecuting Attorney John Settle. Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey has said the department “would not enforce the terms of the Act” based on McDaniel’s opinion. Lindsey said he was told by Settle, Fort that “just carrying it unconcealed is not enough” to cause an arrest.