BY MELANIE BUCK –
After Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge handed down her opinion clarifying the confusion of Act 746 in reference to the state’s open carry law, the Arkansas State Police released a statement that may have added more confusion. In Attorney General Rutledge’s opinion, she interpreted the law to mean that open carry in Arkansas is legal.
Her statement said, “I interpret it to mean an individual may carry so long as he or she does so without the intent to unlawfully employ it against another person. But anytime law enforcement and citizens disagree on a law, we need to ensure there is clarity to protect citizens. I am committed to working with the General Assembly to clarify any confusion surrounding Act 746 and its intent.”
Based on Rutledge’s interpretation, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the Mena Police Department released a statement saying that it would be their policy to not make an arrest solely for openly carrying a firearm, but to look at each instance on a case-by-case basis. The facts and circumstances of each case will be weighed carefully based on state law and criminal intent.
However, in a letter sent by Arkansas State Police Attorney Specialist Mary McLaurin in response to questions from two state representatives and one state senator, she said that Act 746 does not alleviate a concealed carry license holder from the requirement to carry their weapon concealed and if caught openly carrying their gun, they could risk losing their concealed carry permit. The only way, it seems, for a concealed carry permit holder to legally open carry their firearm would be to relinquish their current license or let it expire before openly carrying.
The debate of open carry is ongoing and lawmakers are trying to find a way to correct the issue. However, new legislation cannot be brought about until the next legislative session, which does not begin until January of 2017.
Local law enforcement said that while “Open Carry” is legal, there are still places where it is illegal to carry a firearm, such as at a school and they encourage everyone who plans on carrying a firearm to know where you can and cannot carry.