Nearly 40 persons Saturday formed a procession at Cabot for a walk from the commuter parking lot on West Locust Street, along West Main Street to the Pizza Hut restaurant. Smiling and waving at passing motorists, outside their number there was little to set them apart from the usual pedestrians — except most carried a handgun holstered on hip or thigh, or attached to their belt.
Those who did not carry a handgun were there to show support for the open carry of weapons in Arkansas.
District 44 State Rep. Joe Farrer was at the start of the walk to tell of his support of open carry, although he was not able to participate that day because of work commitments. Farrer said he owns a handgun, "But I don’t have a holster."
Sheriff John Staley, who says he is in favor of open carry, spoke to the participants before they made their way along West Main Street.
"Just use common sense. Be careful," Staley said.
Organizer Clint Colinger said the event is to raise awareness of what Arkansas law.
The group is called Central State Carry, he said.
The change to the law under Act 746 is clear, "unless you unlawfully employ the weapon," it is lawful to carry it openly, Colinger said. "They would have to show criminal intent to file criminal charges against you. If there is no criminal intent, there are no charges to file."
"We are here to let people know what the law says, and that what we are doing is legal, that we’re trying to show that act 746 does authorize open carry despite what the attorney general thinks," Colinger said.
In an opinion issued in July 2013, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel said Act 746 makes "technical changes" to the law on possessing handguns in certain places but does not allow open carry. The law, as it is now written, allows carrying a handgun when a person is on a journey, meaning travel "beyond the county in which the person lives," McDaniel said.
The definition of "journey" is in Arkansas Code Annotated (ACA) 5-73-119, along with 10 conditions under which it is permissible for a person to carry a handgun.
The definition of "journey" is also in ACA 5-73-120, Carrying a weapon, following the definition of the offense of carrying a weapon.
The section states, "a person commits the offense of carrying a weapon if he or she possesses a handgun, knife, or club on or about his or her person, in a vehicle occupied by him or her, or otherwise readily available for use with a purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ the handgun, knife, or club as a weapon against a person."
A handgun is described as "…any firearm with a barrel length of less than twelve inches … that is designed, made, or adapted to be fired with one … hand; Lt. Brent Lucas said last week that the Cabot Police Department had no plan to interfere with the group or the open carry of a handgun.
Sam and Amy Franks of Cabot came to the walk with their children. While Sam was wearing a handgun, Amy was not. "I don’t have a holster," she explained.
Sam Franks said he is originally from Arizona; Amy is from Nevada. Both are accustomed to people wearing handguns.
Amy Franks also said she wanted their children to learn the importance of "Standing up for what you believe in."
Don Hendricks echoed Colinger about open carry of a handgun. "You have to prove unlawful intent," he said.
Otherwise, there is nothing unlawful in wearing a handgun. "You have to be purposely doing something unlawful,’ Hendricks said.
Ray Beuscher of Cabot said individuals carrying handguns would be a deterrent to a robber. "Say there were 20 other people carrying guns. He might think twice about trying something. It would defuse the situation," he said.