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It ain't about the journey in Arkansas

Is this woman carrying with intent to use it "unlawfully"?
Steve Jones

Arkansas’s newly enacted Act 746 (the Constitutional Carry law), is not about the journey.

Act 746 has been widely and wildly reported in the state media as turning Arkansas into a “Constitutional Carry” state, due to a new definition of a journey. However, the journey permission is simply a redundant protection of an Arkansan’s right to bear handguns in the state, and it doesn’t come close to the rights that Constitutional Carry affirms. The real Second Amendment meat of the new Act is in the section that describes the “offense of carrying a weapon”.

SECTION 2. Arkansas Code § 5-73-120 is amended to read as follows:

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.

When read simply by prosecutors and judges around the state, it will be clear to them that the only people who can be charged with the offense of carrying a weapon (handgun) are persons that can be proven to be carrying said weapon with the intent to use it unlawfully against a person. Also obvious is the absence of any state law that declares how a handgun must be carried (openly or concealed).

How does Act 746 transform Arkansas a Constitutional Carry state? To be considered a Constitutional Carry state, citizens must retain the Second Amendment right to bear arms without a permit, openly or concealed, and without major infringement by the state. Arkansas has never had a law specifically banning open carry; however, the carry of a handgun for purposes other than transporting that firearm (besides the undefined, vague journey exception) was generally banned for decades. Before the 1995 CHCL law, all modes of carry were illegal. Act 746 now declares that the only offense of carrying a weapon is carrying it with the “purpose to unlawfully” use it against someone. Therefore, decriminalization in Arkansas of all modes of carrying for self-defense, even openly, will take place August 16th.

To repeat, Arkansas has never specifically banned open carry, even in its racist Jim Crow gun control days, and no open carry-specific prohibition exists today. The absence of any law banning the open carry right is absolutely regaining that right. This reasoning also pertains to conceal carry. After August 16th, there no longer will be any laws that generally ban the carry of a concealed handgun without a permit. The CHCL law is now a “permission”, and is as redundant, if you will, as the journey permission.

The clarity of the definition of the “offense of carrying a weapon” in Act 746 is too obvious for prosecutors and judges to ignore, as my friend Mike Stollenwerk shows in this article. The meaning should be upheld soon in the Arkansas courts, perhaps before Halloween.


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