Proposed Bill Would Legalize Open Carry In Arkansas

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- If passed, a bill in the Arkansas legislature would clear up whether open carry is legal in the state.

Until now, a bill passed several years ago had been interpreted two different ways by open carry opponents and supporters. The new bill proposed in the House would create the same rules for open carry that now exist for concealed carry.

"Personally, I think that is a benefit to the citizens of the state," attorney Bruce Bethell said. "Whether it is those that agree with carrying handguns or those who disagree, I think this brings some certainty to the issues about carrying handguns openly."

The decision whether to conceal or open carry will be left up to the license holder.

"Once a person is qualified under law to carry a concealed weapon or carry a handgun openly, that's a personal choice," Bethell said.

Bethell, who is also the treasurer for the Old Fort Gun Club, believes the proposed bill will clear up the issue once and for all.

"In my opinion, it is an improvement over current law because the current law is interpretation and not state statutory law. What this act appears to do is to make part of the law that currently applies to concealed carry also apply to open carry," he explained.

Bethell also believes the bill will provide another degree of protection for Arkansans.

"To carry an open handgun requires that you meet certain qualifications, which include training, background checks for any criminal activity [or] criminal convictions," he said. "I think it is primarily a clarification of not only existing law, but also clarification of the uncertainty of whether or not individuals can carry handguns openly in the state of Arkansas."

If the bill makes it out of a House committee, it will then go to the full House and then the Senate. Under this bill, handgun carriers will not be allowed to carry guns into schools, churches, athletic events, state offices, police departments, correctional facilities and courthouses.