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Historic open carry march planned in Arkansas

Judge Parker's Courtroom, Fort Smith National Historic Site
Judge Parker's Courtroom, Fort Smith National Historic Site

On August 24th, 2013, Arkansas Carry will host the first legal armed citizen assembly in decades (possibly the first such armed gathering since the Civil War) in Fort Smith.

As reported in earlier articles, gun rights advocates and other Second Amendment leaders have asserted that Act 746 has at the very least brought unlicensed open carry to the Natural State. Representative Nate Bell, R-Mena, opined then about Act 746:

It was the intent of the sponsors of Act 746 to decriminalize the open carry of a firearm by persons not prohibited from legally possessing the firearm. It’s my belief that the language contained in 5-73-120 (a) will effectively do so when the new law takes effect on August 16.

However, in an attempt to confuse law enforcement officers and discourage any exercising of Second Amendment rights, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued an official opinion that open carry was not legal under certain conditions while on a journey. The opinion, however, did not address open carry while a person was not on a journey.

Arkansas Carry disagreed with AG McDaniel and began discussions with city law enforcement leaders in Fort Smith. As a result of these discussions, a consensus was reached that determined "carrying a handgun in plain view if they are carrying on public property and they are not committing or have intent to commit any other crime" did not constitute a violation of Act 746 and was determined to not be committing the offense of carrying a weapon under that act.

Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey was quoted as follows in

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.

The historic walk will begin on the east side of Fort Smith at the intersection of Massard Road and Zero Street and will last for approximately one hour. Due to city ordinance restrictions regarding events, the walk will be limited to Arkansas Carry members so a permit will not be required.

Fort Smith law enforcement leaders should be applauded for their show of professionalism in the handling of this matter. It is unknown to this author whether these leaders agree or disagree with the Arkansas Carry walk, but they did not let these personal opinions interfere with their legal decision. This is a sign of true law enforcement in Arkansas.

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