Former Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued an official opinion that open carry is not the law in Arkansas. Current Attorney General Leslie Rutledge apparently disagrees. Will she issue on official Attorney General's opinion on the matter?
In my previous post, I discussed the unintended (presumably) consequences of the new definition of "journey" provided by the Arkansas State Legislature. Well now the Attorney General's office has issued and opinion saying the law has not been as broadened as I, and many others, have read it to be.
While I wish that the Attorney General's opinion on this matter were persuasive, it simply isn't. The AG bases his opinion on the ambiguity inherent in the terms "journey" and "travel". I agree that those terms can be construed as ambiguous; however, the Legislature's clear action of defining the term "journey" removes any of that ambiguity. Even if you grant the ambiguity of the term, that only opens the door to look at the legislative history behind the statute, which the AG opinion purports to do. If a discussion of legislative history then followed, I might have been persuaded. Instead, the AG opinion delves immediately into the judicial interpretation of "journey" that was rendered in the absence of a legislative definition.
That being said, until someone gets arrested and raises this issue as a defense, no one will know what the law on this matter is. So grab your gun and head out of the county if you want, but prepare to be arrested and settle in for a long, convoluted, and likely nonsensical, court fight.
It appears that the Arkansas Legislature, probably unintentionally, has legalized the open carrying of handguns in Arkansas, as long as you travel outside the county. This was done by defining a "journey" as any "travel beyond the county in which a person lives". Under prior common law, a journey required that you be outside of your normal daily business. Under the law, as currently written and taking effect July 1, 2013, it is legally permitted to openly carry a handgun so long as you travel outside the county. All that said, I have a feeling you may still be arrested for it, and it will be up to the Arkansas Supreme Court to determine how this law is applied.
It is clear that this was not the intent of the Arkansas Legislature. This bill was passed AFTER a bill that explicitly provided for the open carry of handguns was defeated. Regardless of one's opinion on open carry or the law as passed, it is unacceptable that the State Legislature is creating laws that they don't intend.