Firearm Open Carry Lawful, Top Officials Say

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Openly carrying guns in public is legal, according to Washington County's two top law enforcement officials.

Prosecutor John Threet and Sheriff Tim Helder told 5NEWS current state law does not prohibit gun owners from carrying their firearms in the open without being concealed. The opinion is at odds with a statement released earlier this year by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, which stated open carry of firearms is illegal in the state.

The controversy began after a bill was passed by state legislators late in the 2013 legislative session, which contains language some believe allows for open carry of firearms.

Helder said he will use Threet’s opinion in instructing his deputies on the legality of firearm open carry.

“Ultimately, he’s the guy that interprets the law for us and will say I can prosecute this and I can’t in good conscience prosecute on these,” Helder said. “So what we try to do is get that information out to our deputies.”

Prosecutors and law enforcement in other Arkansas counties can enforce the law based on their own interpretation, but Threet said he does not plan on prosecuting gun owners who openly carry firearms in Washington County.

“I personally believe you have to show that they are going to unlawfully employ it as a weapon,” Threet said. “If you can’t do that, I don’t think you have a crime.”

Helder used to agree with the attorney general in his opinion that openly carrying firearms is illegal.

“We basically took that as law as we would interpret it and enforce it,” he said.

But that changed after the sheriff talked with Threet about the issue.

“Well, after that conversation and further review of it, I tend to agree with him as far as the interpretation of the law,” Helder said.

The prosecutor and the sheriff both said for law enforcement across the state to agree on whether firearm open carry is legal, legislators will need to address it in the next session.

“I would anticipate that this will be readdressed, and we’ll see then,” Helder said. “But between now and then, at least in Washington County, it appears to be lawful.”

Threet said if legislators declare firearm open carry legal, gun owners may not be required to obtain permits to concealed-carry their handguns.

"All of that's moot if the new law states that it's open carry," he said.


  • Durandal

    Mike, you’re incorrect regarding that, as concealed carry is specifically spelled out as illegal unless you have a permit. The only ambiguity is with the open carry.

    • Ishmail Dentor

      I agree Sir. According to the Law, concealed carry must be by permit. The new law, the way I read it, allows for the OPEN carry of firearms but, you still need a permit to CONCEAL carry.

  • Nicholas Stehle

    False. The new law clearly states that a prosecutor must prove unlawful intent to get a conviction for carrying a weapon. It doesn’t matter whether it is concealed or open. In fact, the word “open” isn’t even mentioned in Act 746.

  • david

    I agree that open carry is legal, but in order to have reciprocity with other states, one must possess a valid concealed carry permit. To me it’s important to have a concealed permit whether or not you need it in Arkansas, just so you can legally carry in states with reciprocity agreements.

  • Wayne Helms

    ACT 746 does not specify which carry format you use open or concealed it simply states ” on or about his or her person” but to educate the masses some of us have chosen to open carry by doing so Open carry creates “gun normalization” that protects our civil rights. We have to use this civil right or lose it !


    “In 2005 Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling that received little attention when handed down, but which is extremely pertinent to today’s gun debate, found that police officers are not constitutionally bound to protect citizens.”
    The cold hard truth of the slogan of commitment on Police Units “To serve and to protect” is dangerously false and misleading resulting in serious consequences or death that could’ve been prevented but our Government continues to maliciously disproportionately target minorities and poor people with less access to legal defense. The fact of the matter is you are on your own, PERIOD……The fact is you are on your own, PER IOD……

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