Senator says – Show me the prohibition. Show me the penalty.
By David Ferguson
State Senator Linda Collins-Smith (R) has requested an Attorney General’s Opinion to end the confusion over whether you must have a license to carry a concealed handgun. Senator Collins-Smith does not think there is any prohibition or penalty against carrying a concealed handgun without a license. I agree with her.
The continued confusion over the issue is evident by a recent statement of Governor Asa Hutchinson who recognizes open carry is the law but says you must have a license to carry concealed. Senator Collins-Smith challenges this view by saying — Show me the prohibition. Show me the penalty.
Here is Senator Collins-Smith announcement that appears on Facebook:
I have requested Attorney General Rutledge’s opinion concerning whether there is any penalty for carrying a concealed handgun. Although it has been recognized for several years that a person may carry a handgun in the open, the existence of a permissive concealed handgun license law has caused confusion over whether a license is required to carry the same handgun concealed. I do not think the law has any prohibition for carrying a concealed handgun without a license. It is my hope the Attorney General will help gun owners by clarifying that there is no penalty and that Arkansas passed true constitutional carry (open or concealed without a license). Constitutional carry is not a novel idea. It has been pointed out to me even Senator Bernie Sanders’ home state of
New HampshireVermont is one of the constitutional carry states.
Senator Linda Collins-Smith
Before the concealed handgun law was passed in 1995 you were at risk of being charged with the offense of “carrying a weapon” (whether you carried openly or concealed) and you had the burden to prove in court you were carrying under one of a few narrow exceptions. When passed, the concealed handgun license offered a way to carry concealed without the risk of being charged with a crime.
In 2013 the offence of carrying a weapon was changed so that you weren’t in violation of carrying a handgun unless a prosecutor could show you intended to employ the handgun unlawfully against a person. It was soon recognized the 2013 law allowed you to carry openly if you weren’t in a place where handguns were prohibited by law or by the property owner. But confusion was created concerning carrying a concealed handgun with some people saying the mere fact Arkansas has a concealed handgun law means you must have a license to concealed carry. The problem with the argument is that it is based on an assumption and not on what the concealed handgun law says.
Even without being required, the concealed handgun license still has value. The license still has benefits in that several states recognize the Arkansas license and therefore the license is beneficial if you want to concealed carry in their state.
Note: In 2017 some penalties were added in the concealed handgun law, BUT those penalties only apply to the new so called “enhanced carry license.” The enhanced carry license permits a license holder to carry a concealed handgun into some areas where handguns are otherwise prohibited. (The enhanced carry license is a mess designed for failure but that is another story.)
Watching for the Attorney General Opinion
It doesn’t matter whether you are a gun control nut or a supporter of the Second Amendment. The question Senator Collins-Smith poses is: What does Arkansas law say? Since there is no prohibition or penalty in the concealed handgun law, it would be a challenge for even the best liberal activist judge to come up with an argument to prohibit concealed carry without a license.
Be watching for Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s future opinion on concealed handgun rights.
David Ferguson is a former Director of Arkansas’ Bureau of Legislative Research, having a thirty-two-year career as an attorney for the Arkansas legislature. After retirement from state service his primary focus has been beef cattle farming. He is also a former officer of Conduit for Action.