Last week, I reported in this column about Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s refusal to perform his duty and issue an opinion about a confusing and vague section of Arkansas’s handgun carry law - the ‘journey’ exception. Tourists from other states, state handgun owners and law enforcement officers across the state must continue to wonder what the definition of the law really is for at least 17 more months, when the Arkansas General Assembly meets in January, 2013.
A clear and concise definition of a ‘journey’ still does not exist.
Or, does it?
While perusing the Arkansas State Police website this weekend, I came across an FAQ page which is provided for the public (both residents and non-residents) so that they may more completely understand our gun laws. On this ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ page was the following official post (emphasis mine):
(c) It is a defense to a prosecution under this section that at the time of the act of carrying a weapon:
(4) 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; (a journey is defined as traveling beyond your circle of neighbors and general acquaintances our(sic) outside a person’s normal travel routine)
Though the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of Arkansas (AG McDaniel) refused to precisely define the meaning of a journey, it seems his subordinates at the Arkansas State Police have kindly provided all of Arkansas’s citizens with a meaningful description of a journey.
According to the above statement, the act of openly carrying (or the concealing) of a handgun is completely free from prosecution unless a prosecutor can prove:
- You are not still within your circle of neighbors, and
- You are not beyond your circle of acquaintances, or
- You are not outside your normal travel routine.
Of course, a citizen of Arkansas or a tourist passing through our great state may still be arrested by some of the ‘unenlightened’ members of the law enforcement community, since these LEOs are probably unaware of this public declaration by the Arkansas State Police. If these tourists and law-abiding citizens carried a copy of the Arkansas State Police’s definition, however, it may help these officers understand why they are filling up with gas at the Shell station with a handgun on their hip.
A copy of this State Police definition may also help jurors understand why the prosecutors and law enforcement officers are confused, also.