New Starting Location Set For Open-Carry Walk

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Gun-rights advocates planning to walk on Saturday with handguns in the open now will begin the event on Saturday at the Van Buren Municipal Complex, instead of the public library.

The starting point for the open-carry “awareness walk,” the second walk this month in the River Valley involving people openly carrying handguns in holsters, had to be changed because of a scheduling conflict with the library, said Steve Jones, chairman of Arkansas Carry, a statewide gun-rights group.

The walk is still scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.

Jones said he didn’t want the walk to interfere with an indoor yard sale the library scheduled for Saturday.

“Through meetings with the head librarian, the mayor’s office and the chief of police, we were able to come up with this starting point,” Jones said in a note on Facebook. “Kudos and thanks to the leaders of Van Buren; without their help it would have been very difficult to make this happen.”

The walk 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,” Jone said in a prepared statement.

The law 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 prepared 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,” McCune wrote. “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.”

Jonathan Wear, Van Buren Police Department spokesman, said a police cruiser will be on patrol in the area during the walk, but he added the department does not anticipate any problems or arrests.

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.