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Legislators weigh in on 'open carry' law

Posted: December 17, 2013 - 8:19pm

With Conway’s “constitutional carry” demonstration approaching, other voices are weighing in on the amendment to Arkansas law that arguably allows people to openly carry handguns almost anywhere.

Conway’s “constitutional carry walk” will start at 11 a.m. on Dec. 21 at Colton’s Steakhouse on Oak Street and proceed down Oak Street and back for lunch. A demonstration in Maumelle may follow. Organizers say that anyone may join in, but urge participants against bringing rifles or shotguns and caution that demonstrators may not under any circumstance unholster their weapon.

The amendment started as House Bill 1700, and it flowed through the state’s House Judiciary Committee, the House of Representatives and the Senate with scarcely any discussion and only one opposing vote.

Rep. Steve Magie (D-Conway), serves on the House Judiciary Committee and said the bill, “as it was presented to us, seemed reasonable.”

“It did not appear that it opened up the right for somebody to strap on their six-shooter and walk into a Walmart,” he said.

The amendment, among other things, changes the language defining the offense from carrying a handgun “for use with a purpose to employ the handgun . . . as a weapon against a person” to “for use with a purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ the handgun ... as a weapon against a person.

It also says that a person can lawfully carry a handgun under the “journey” exception if the person is traveling outside of their home county. Previously, a person was on a “journey” if they were traveling beyond their usual course of business, generally, so as to justify arming themselves; the question of whether their travel triggered the exception was for courts to decide.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Denny Altes (R-Fort Smith) explained the bill to the House Judiciary Committee as “basically cleanup language.”

“A lot of it is recommended by the State Police and the Sheriff’s Association [and] the main thing it does is ... it changes from a defense to an exception and then ... Rep. Doug House suggested we put in ‘unlawfully’ and then . . . [it] defines journey,” Altes told the committee on March 21. This is the way the State Police recommended, so other than that it’s all cleanup and updating language.”

On March 26, Altes again described the bill as “mostly cleanup language from the State Police” to the full House, saying that State Police, the Sheriff’s Association and prosecutors generally were in favor of the amendment. There was no further discussion before the House approved the bill with one vote against it. The Senate approved it unanimously.

Rep. John Baine (D-El Dorado) cast the one vote against the bill. He said on Tuesday that his constituents in Union County, geographically the state’s largest, sometimes carried handguns across the county under the journey exception, which is not permitted by the newly limited definition of “journey.”

However, as some prosecutors read the law, including 20th Judicial District Prosecutor Cody Hiland, a person may now legally carry a weapon openly in almost all public places unless they actually attempt or can be said to intend to attempt to use it unlawfully against a person. Hiland has said that he won’t prosecute anyone for merely carrying a weapon, though he said he would treat weapon issues on a “case-by-case” basis.

Baine said that he didn’t expect the amended law to be interpreted as allowing open carry, and “the majority of the legislature had no idea” either.

“That’s how it got out of the committee and that’s how it got out of the House and Senate,” Baine said.

Legalization for open carry does have some support, Baine said, but he thinks Altes’ “clarification” of the state’s carrying a weapon statute isn’t the way to accomplish it.

“I think it’s clear that the clarification needs a clarification,” he said. “I don’t want us to have different counties and different judicial districts have different levels of the bar of justice,” He said.

Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) recently said that he supports open carry, but he didn’t think the amendment authorized it either when he voted for it.

Magie said he hoped the amendment could be revisited at the next legislative session. It would take a 2/3 vote of the legislature to bring a non-fiscal issue to the floor of the ongoing fiscal session, he said, and he doubted that would happen.

Altes did not respond to a call for comment on Tuesday.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at joe.lamb@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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lachowsj
3826
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lachowsj 12/18/13 - 11:27 am
3
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What about

"Organizers say that anyone may join in, but urge participants against bringing rifles or shotguns and caution that demonstrators may not under any circumstance unholster their weapon."

So they are saying it is okay to play like "Have Gun, Will Travel" but not like "The Rifleman"? Can anyone come without a gun and be Caine in "Kung Fu"?

ucantbserious
29097
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ucantbserious 12/18/13 - 12:15 pm
2
1

Hmm

"Organizers say that anyone may join in..."

Great! My toddler has been itching to show off his new Glock. I'm sure glad they're not going to exclude anyone from joining. Let's just hope it doesn't interfere with his nap time.

johnb
433
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johnb 12/18/13 - 04:24 pm
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But Could you Bring a Shotgun or Rifle if You wanted to?

Would that be against the law?

"Organizers say that anyone may join in, but urge participants against bringing rifles or shotguns and caution that demonstrators may not under any circumstance unholster their weapon."

fdsjfsdjfsda543543543
2357
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fdsjfsdjfsda543543543 12/18/13 - 03:14 pm
4
5

Keep on trucking down the

Keep on trucking down the interstate after Maumelle and try this in say the River Market in downtown Little Rock.

May the ASP SWAT team make quick work of these mofos.

faulknerwatchdog
580
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faulknerwatchdog 12/19/13 - 09:56 pm
2
0

Just because the SWAT may not

Just because the SWAT may not agree with open carry doesn't mean it's wrong. Granted, you wouldn't be very smart to parade through the city, especially if the local "law enforcement" was dedicated to disarming anybody exercising their natural and constitutional rights, but that doesn't mean you'd be wrong. Some of you seem to think if the police don't like it, it must be wrong. Ever figure sometimes those in power just don't like being challenged?

ARVoiceofLogic
4994
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ARVoiceofLogic 12/18/13 - 03:27 pm
6
2

Translation

"Hiland has said that he won’t prosecute anyone for merely carrying a weapon, though he said he would treat weapon issues on a “case-by-case” basis."

He will prosecute people that he feels "look" like trouble, but not the middle class cowboys.

fdsjfsdjfsda543543543
2357
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fdsjfsdjfsda543543543 12/18/13 - 06:44 pm
2
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Middle class cowboys! I like

Middle class cowboys! I like the characterization, how apropo.

Let's see a bunch of young hoodie clad individuals with weapons get the same hands off treatment from local law enforcement.

arkansan
741
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arkansan 12/18/13 - 05:50 pm
4
2

"Organizers say that anyone may join in,"

Even a felon or on probation?
They could strap on a side arm and stroll down the road and break the law with the rest of them. Who would ever know.
Obviously the whole group thinks they're above the law.

faulknerwatchdog
580
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faulknerwatchdog 12/18/13 - 05:56 pm
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5

Framer of the Constitution

"If a law is unjust, a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so." -Thomas Jefferson

lachowsj
3826
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lachowsj 12/18/13 - 09:57 pm
2
1

Same guy

"It is an axiom in my mind, that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and that too of the people with a certain degree of instruction. This it is the business of the State to effect, and on a general plan."-Thomas Jefferson

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