Arkansas Panel Stumbles On Constitutional Carry Resolution

Arkansas managed to jack up its constitutional carry law to the point that no one knows what the hell it means. As previously noted, a lawmaker wanted to pass a resolution to explain the intent of the law.

Now, that bill has hit a bit of a roadblock while in committee.

An attempt to seek clarity on the legality of carrying firearms without a permit in Arkansas ended with confusion and no action in a House committee Thursday morning.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee attempted to adopt a resolution that Arkansas is a “constitutional carry” state where citizens can carry firearms, either concealed or in the open, without any permit.

The debate over constitutional — or permitless — carry in Arkansas has led to divided opinions among prosecutors, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Rutledge and Hutchinson, both attorneys, have said they believe gun owners are allowed to carry their weapons without permits.

The resolution considered Wednesday would not carry any legal weight, a point Democrats quickly jumped on.

“We are not judges,” said House Minority Leader Charles Blake, D-Little Rock. “We are sent here to make law, to pass law, to put up ideas that can go forward to be laws.

“If you want to run a constitutional carry bill, you should run a bill,” Blake said.

Now, in fairness, I probably have to side with the Democrat here. It’s not so much that I think the law isn’t a constitutional carry law as I believe that if there’s doubt or ambiguity to the law, it’s probably a good idea to fix that.

Of course, the governor and the attorney general both say the law allows permitless carry, so they have that going for them in the meantime.

The problem is, however, that there’s doubt. If there’s doubt, then there’s a chance that someone will get prosecuted for carrying a firearm without a permit and that is a major problem.

Yes, I get that the resolution was supposed to clarify that, but if it’s not actual law, then prosecutors and judges don’t have to pay any damn attention to the law. They can prosecute and punish people who honestly believe they’re complying with the law. Yes, Governor Hutchinson can pardon them, but that’s after the hassle and expense of trying to defend yourself in court only to be convicted and treated like a criminal, all while doing something you thought was legal.

Further, Hutchinson and Rutledge won’t be in office forever. Their opinions only hold sway so long as they are, but eventually, they’ll leave. What then?

It seems to be the best option for all would be to pass a clear, straightforward bill that has the force of law while clarifying the issue for everyone concerned. Ultimately, that will have more of an impact and prevent prosecutions that lawmakers never intended to happen.

With strong Republican majorities in both chambers, it shouldn’t even be that difficult to get it passed. After all, they passed it once, why not a second time and remove all the confusion?

Apr 15, 2021 2:30 PM ET