As we’ve all seen to great effect in the last week, watching laws get made is not for the faint of heart. I’ve made sausage before. That’s a picnic by comparison. Which goes a long way toward explaining something as vague and open to legal interpretation and potential abuse as Arkansas’ “journey” exception to its carry laws. So, when you have a legislative product as poorly crafted as this, it’s only natural to ask for clarification, right? Well, no. This is the state where you have to worry about what the meaning of ‘is’ is. And that’s just the way they like it…
Down where the razorbacks run free:
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 employ the handgun, knife, or club as a weapon against a person.
There are a number of exceptions (being on your property, in your own business, yadda, yadda, yadda)…and when:
The person is carrying a weapon when upon a journey, unless the journey is through a commercial airport when presenting at the security checkpoint in the airport or is in the person’s checked baggage and is not a lawfully declared weapon;
The big question, of course, is…what’s a journey? Does running down to the Kwiky Mart for a six pack constitute a journey? How about hiking through the woods? Or driving from one end of the state to another? Anyone? Exactly.
The word “journey” is not defined by A.C.A. §5-73-120 or any other statute. I am of course unable to supply a controlling definition of a term that the General Assembly has not defined.
This office has consistently taken the position that in the absence of a legislatively- or judicially-formulated definition, it is inappropriate for the Attorney General, being a member of the executive branch of government, to formulate a controlling definition.
I guess that means there’s no controlling legal authority in play here. Which doesn’t provide much help to the people and law enforcement officials of The Natural State.
And that was exactly McDaniel’s intent. Had he given some guidance on the matter, it would have potentially tied his hands in future prosecutions. Clarity in the law can be inconvenient that way.
No, it’s much better to keep the little people guessing. That gives the dedicated modern bureaucrat some very handy operational latitude to apply the law however he damned well pleases, depending on the circumstances and who’s managed to ensnare themselves in the vaguely crafted law.
All of which diminishes that whole regnat populus stuff a little bit.