By Dabney Bailey, Fri, April 26, 2013
In July of this year, Arkansas will become the fifth state in the United States to allow Constitutional carry. Act 746, which was sponsored by Representative Denny Altes of Fort Smith, cruised through the state government with only one “nay” vote in the legislature and it received Governor Mike Beebe’s signature on April 4th.
The gun rights group Arkansas Carry explains that Constitutional carry is when a state does not have any laws that limit a person’s ability to carry a firearm, either openly or concealed. Essentially, the only justification a gun owner needs is the US Constitution.
The new law completely reverses the burden of proof in most states. Gun owners in most states have to carry around a permit that proves that they can legally carry firearms. In Constitutional carry states, the burden of proof falls on state prosecutors to prove that citizens are carrying a gun with the intent of committing a crime.
Act 746 also decriminalizes firing a gun for self-defense. Previously, it was unlawful for a person to carry a gun with the intent of using it on another person – by that definition, a legitimate case of self-defense would be illegal. The new law changes the wording so that it is illegal for anybody to carry a gun with the intent of unlawfully using it on another person.
Arkansas is following in the footsteps of Vermont, Alaska, Arizona, and Wyoming, the only other four states that maintain Constitutional carry laws. Certain parts of Idaho, Montana, Illinois, and New Mexico also have Constitutional carry laws.
This marks a major victory for gun rights advocates in the Natural State, but Arkansas Carry urges Arkansans not to jump the gun, so to speak. The organization writes, “Arkansas Carry suggests that citizens consult a lawyer before carrying a handgun in public after the act takes effect. Being a new law, Act 746 is untested by the courts, and law enforcement officials are not completely aware of the implications as it pertains to the carry of handguns. Arkansas Carry’s interpretation of this law cannot be held as legally binding, and prosecutors may construe the law differently.”