How safe are our state’s highways and rest areas?
A Fort Smith, Arkansas TV station asks this legitimate question, after law enforcement says an Arkansas Highway Department worker was shot Tuesday at a Dora welcome center by Franklin County resident Patricia Hajek-McClure. The defenseless AHTD employee, Sharon Richards, was shot when she walked up to Hajek-McClure’s truck.
Even though the motive for the shooting is still unknown, it is obvious (to answer the media’s question), self-defense means are needed when traveling Arkansas’s highways, especially for our state’s highway workers. However, Arkansas law (and agency rules) disallows highway workers to arm themselves. Luckily for Arkansas CHCL permit holders who don’t work for the state government, however, rest areas and their buildings are the only Highway Department property where concealed carry is allowed. Whether an unlicensed citizen on a ‘journey’ may carry into a welcome center or rest area building is legally questionable.
§5-73-306. Prohibited places.
No license to carry a concealed handgun issued pursuant to this subchapter authorizes any person to carry a concealed handgun into:
(3) (A) Any building of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department or onto grounds adjacent to any building of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department.
(B) However, subdivision (3)(A) of this section does not apply to a rest area or weigh station of the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department;
Highway workers, along with OTR truck drivers, come into contact with the public every day, and most of these interactions take place in rest areas and welcome centers. Transients of all types pass through our state on interstate highways, and many different forms of crime take place in these rest stop facilities. The truckers may see some relief if Senate Bill 2188 (the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act) passes through Congress, but arming our state highway workers will be difficult.
The Trayvon Martin media propaganda battle has given the anti-self defense groups new resolve, and commenters to local media stories are already calling for gun bans as a solution to this rest area shooting. Even though Sharon Richards was just as likely to have been stabbed to death in this situation, men and women are using this event to call for a complete infringement upon citizen’s rights.
The answer to the citizen safety question is not, however, the complete banning of firearms and removal of Constitutional rights without an amendment. The solution is to remove the unlawful restrictions upon a person’s natural, God-given right to protect their lives at all times. Detective Jonathan Wear of the Van Buren Police Department was quoted as saying about the alleged shooter that ".. he did not believe that Hajek-McClure had a conceal-carry permit.”
It is painfully clear that Sharon Richards did not and could not use a concealed carry permit to save her life yesterday.