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New Arkansas Ruling Throws Them Towards Permitless Carry

Arkansas just took an enormous leap towards permitless carry.

As USA Carry reports, the carrying of a concealed firearm without a permit has been a legally gray area in the state, after the General Assembly enacted Act 746, which amended statute 5-73-120

“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.”

In other words, you can catch a weapons charge if you possess a weapon with the intent to commit a crime. That sounds straightforward until you consider the ramifications.

That means, theoretically, that if you carry a handgun without any intent to commit a crime, you’re fine.

That implication that Arkansas had made itself a permitless carry state has been made much more spelled out in a recent Arkansas Court of Appeals case in which they pretty much stated that Arkansas is a permitless carry state.

Spats McGee reported on The Firing Line about the incident, and he said it perfectly:

Yesterday, the Arkansas Court of Appeals issued Taff v. State, which was an appeal from a conditional guilty plea. The trial court had denied Mr. Taff’s motion to suppress, but the Court of Appeals reversed. Mr. Taff had been seen going in and out of a store several times, possibly with a gun. The store owner called it in, and the police went to check it out. The officer activated his blue lights when he saw Mr. Taff walking down the highway, turned around, and made contact with Taff. In the end, the court ruled that it was an illegal seizure and suppressed the evidence. For TFL purposes, here’s the important part:

The State argued that Officer Davis seized Taff because he “had to determine the lawfulness of [Taff’s] conduct going in and out of the store and carrying that weapon and acting suspiciously.” Merely possessing a weapon is not a crime in the State of Arkansas. See Ark. Code Ann. § 5-73-120(a) (providing that “[a] person commits the offense of carrying a weapon if he or she possesses a handgun … on or about his person … with a purpose to attempt to unlawfully employ the handgun … as a weapon against a person”); see also Op. Ark. Att’y No. 064(2015) (“[I]n general merely possessing a handgun on your person … does not violate § 5-73-120(a) and may be done if it does not violate other laws or regulations.”). Under the clear language of section 5-73-120(a), the possessor of a handgun must have an unlawful intent to employ it as a weapon against a person in order to make that possession a criminal act. Under the rule of lenity, any doubts as to the interpretation of a criminal statute are resolved in favor of the defendant. See Williams v. State, 364 Ark. 203, 208, 217 S.W.3d 817, 819–20 (2005).

There is nothing in the record before us to indicate that Taff demonstrated any sort of unlawful intent with the weapon prior to the engagement of the blue lights—such as threatening someone at the store or brandishing the weapon—that would have given officers reasonable suspicion of a crime sufficient to effectuate the stop with the blue lights. To the contrary, Officer Davis’s testimony was clear that there were no indicators of unlawful activity or intent and that he had no information that would have indicated Taff’s possession of a gun was unlawful.

Taff v. State, 2018 Ark. App. 488

Now, if you’re in Arkansas, don’t take this as my telling you you’re free to do as you please. That’s not what I’m here for. However, it’s good news to all of us that value freedom.

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