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.
The sponsor of House Resolution 1013 -- Rep. Brandt Smith, R-Jonesboro -- said his intent was to get lawmakers "around the table" to discuss the status of open carry.
The matter was debated roughly 45 minutes.
Faced with a long list of citizens who had signed up to speak for and against the resolution, and only a few minutes to go before lawmakers were to meet on the House floor, several Republicans on the committee called for immediate consideration of the resolution.
That sparked confusion, when several members said they were not sure if they were being asked to vote on the motion for consideration or the resolution itself.
A roll call on the motion to give immediate consideration to the resolution failed. Rep. Jimmy Gazaway, R-Paragould, and several other members said they did not want to cut short the public's chance to comment.
The committee then adjourned, delaying action until at least next week.
In December 2017, Hutchinson issued a letter to the Arkansas State Police stating that it was his belief that Act 746 of 2013 allows for the open carry of handguns. The state police director, Col. Bill Bryant, then issued a memo telling officers that openly carrying a weapon, by itself, is not probable cause for an arrest.
Despite the governor's letter, local police and prosecutors have the authority to interpret whether Act 746, which deals with the possession of a weapon, allows for open carry.
Last fall, the Arkansas Court of Appeals overturned the conviction of a Montgomery County man on drug charges because police in that instance stopped the man only because he was carrying a weapon. The Supreme Court of Arkansas, however, has yet to consider such a case.
For proponents of permitless and open carry, the Court of Appeals case Taff v Arkansas has provided clarity.
"We look at the law, the law is clear. You look at the case law, the case law is clear," said Tim Loggins of the gun-rights groups Patriots of Act 746.
Loggins was invited by Smith to speak for the resolution. Loggins said Arkansans are actively carrying weapons without permits across the state as is, but a resolution would end confusion about whether it is legal to do so.
J.R. Davis, a spokesman for Hutchinson, said the governor does not believe more guidance is needed from the governor's office.
Davis said the governor otherwise declined to comment on a nonbinding House resolution.
A Section on 02/08/2019
Print Headline: Arkansas House panel snags on no-permit gun carrying