Gun-Rights Advocates Schedule Open-Carry Walk

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Gun-rights advocates have scheduled an open-carry “awareness walk” for Saturday in Van Buren, the second walk this month in the River Valley involving people openly carrying handguns in holsters.

The walk on Saturday is set to begin at 9 a.m. at the Van Buren Public Library parking lot, according to Steve Jones, chairman of Arkansas Carry, a statewide gun-rights group. From the library, the group will walk north on Main Street to North 20th Street, then cross Main Street and go south to Cane Hill Street. From that point, the group will walk back to the library, Jones said.

Jones said the walk on Saturday is intended to show that Act 746, approved by the 2013 General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Mike Beebe, “has decriminalized the possession of a handgun in plain view if a person does not intend to use that weapon unlawfully.” The act took effect Aug. 16.

Arkansans are allowed to carry a concealed handgun if they have a concealed-carry permit, but Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued an opinion this summer stating that Act 746 does not allow Arkansans to carry unconcealed handguns.

In his statement, Jones included a recent letter from Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune to law enforcement officials, stating his office will not prosecute open-carry cases unless it can be proven that  someone’s “mental state” was to use the handgun unlawfully.

“My suggestion is that if law enforcement encounters a situation with a person carrying a weapon that is visible, before arresting anyone, find out what their purpose is for carrying the weapon. If their purpose is merely that is their right and/or for self defense/protection, and not with any purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ the handgun, then do not arrest that person and seize his weapon,” McCune wrote.

On Aug. 24, Jones and other gun-rights supporters conducted an open-carry walk in Fort Smith.

“All we’re trying to do is show support for the Second Amendment,” Jones said at the time.

No one was arrested in that event.