Arkansas Set to Become Fifth Constitutional Carry State?

That dog will hunt (courtesy opencarry.org)

I’m not sure if Arkansas Carry is jumping the gun a bit. The gun rights group devotes an entire graph of their celebratory announcement to warning gun owners that this done deal maybe ain’t so done yet (“Arkansas Carry suggests that citizens consult a lawyer before carrying a handgun in public after the act takes effect”). Be that as it may, The Natural State’s new gun bill beats the hell out of Rhode Island’s forthcoming legislative package, which threatens to ban the possession of “assault rifles.” No grandfathering. Sorry, distracted. Press release . . .

In July, 2013, Arkansas will become the fifth state in the United States to enact “Constitutional Carry” into law. Act 746 of the 2013 General Assembly was signed into law by Governor Mike Beebe on April 4th, 2013, after receiving only one “nay” vote from the legislature.

Constitutional Carry occurs in a state when no laws exist that generally restrict the carry of handguns (open or concealed) for self-defense purposes. Arkansas law 5-73-120 currently prohibits the possession of a handgun if it is possessed “readily available for use with a purpose to employ the handgun… as a weapon against a person,” which puts the burden of proof of legal carry upon the person carrying the handgun. Act 746 changes the prohibitive language in July as follows

Arkansas Code § 5-73-120. Carrying a weapon

(a) A person commits the offense of carrying a weapon if he or she possesses a handgun, knife, or club on or about his or her person, in a vehicle occupied by him or her, or otherwise readily available for use with a purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ the handgun, knife, or club as a weapon against a person.

This technical change decriminalizes the carry of handguns for self-defense purposes, and puts the burden upon a prosecutor to prove criminal intent of a person carrying a handgun. Also, there are no specifications whether a legally carried handgun should be carried openly or concealed; thus it is considered Constitutional Carry by Arkansas Carry and the gun owners of the state.

Act 746 is further supported by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and by Article II, § 5 of the Arkansas Constitution (right to bear arms). The manner of carry under Act 746 also does not require a permit or training; however, Arkansas Carry desires that all citizens obtain firearms safety training before carrying a firearm in public. Arkansans should also obtain a state CHCL permit to enable them to carry in reciprocal states.

Again, Act 746 becomes law in July.

Arkansas Carry suggests that citizens consult a lawyer before carrying a handgun in public after the act takes effect. Being a new law, Act 746 is untested by the courts, and law enforcement officials are not completely aware of the implications as it pertains to the carry of handguns. Arkansas Carry’s interpretation of this law cannot be held as legally binding, and prosecutors may construe the law differently.

The Board of Directors of Arkansas Carry wishes to thank Representative Denny Altes of Fort Smith for sponsoring Act 746, and also acknowledges and appreciates all of the hard work that was performed to write language suitable for law enforcement agencies, members of the Arkansas General Assembly and Governor Mike Beebe.