The legality of “open carry” in Arkansas is an open question for many, but 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland says his office won’t prosecute people for going out in public wearing a gun.
In April a piece of legislation introduced by state Rep. Denny Altes (R-Fort Smith) purporting to make “technical corrections” to Arkansas statutes relating to carrying a weapon was signed into law. To many, these “technical corrections” make Arkansas one of a handful of “open carry” states.
“We’re still going to approach [suspected violations of A.C.A. § 5-73-120] on a case-by-case basis,” Hiland said, “however, it would be intellectually dishonest to suggest anything other than that [the amendments] make it very difficult if not impossible to prosecute a person under this provision.”
Faulkner County Sheriff Andy Shock said that his department’s policy on open carry is to defer to the prosecutor’s judgment and not arrest people solely for carrying a weapon for self-defense. Conway Chief of Police A. J. Gary said that the amendment has made enforcement of A.C.A. § 5-73-120 more difficult because the law is now less clear.
What is particularly interesting about Hiland’s decision is that neither state Attorney General Dustin McDaniel nor Governor Mike Beebe think that that A.C.A. § 5-73-120 authorizes open carry.
I’d personally suggest that with so much legal ambiguity about the status of open carry in Arkansas that it would be smart to err on the side of caution for now, and not open carry. It appears that if government officeals can’t come to a concensus interpretation, then lawmakers will have to sort out this confusion in the legislature next session.