Martin files bill in Legislature allowing open carry of handguns
BY SCOTT F. DAVIS Northwest Arkansas Times

Posted on Thursday, March 12, 2009

Arkansas residents will be able to carry their handguns in holsters on their legs in public like the gunslingers of the old West if a bill filed by a Washington County lawmaker becomes law.

State Rep. Mark Martin, R-Prairie Grove, introduced House Bill 2184, an act concerning the lawful open carry of handguns on Monday.

The law would let anyone who is legally allowed to own a gun to carry it in plain sight, as long as the gun owner does not act offensively.

"Plain sight includes a handgun that is holstered as long as the holster is not hidden from view or concealed from observation and is in open view," the bill states.

Arkansas is one of six states that does not allow the open carry of weapons, Martin said. Most states do not even require a license to open carry.

Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Florida and New York are the other states that do not allow open carry, Martin said.

"Most people don't know that it's not legal (in Arkansas)," Martin said.

Under the bill, the person carrying the gun is presumed to be acting defensively unless they exhibit behavior that can be considered offensive or aggressive, such as raising their voice or threatening someone, Martin explained.

"They better not act stupid, or they'll have a crime on their hands," Martin said.

The bill would not allow people to take guns into places where they are already forbidden, such as public schools, churches and courthouses, he explained.

Martin said his pastor alerted him about the restrictive gun laws in Arkansas, and Martin agreed to introduce the bill for Arkansas Carry, a lobbying group trying to get the law changed.

Tim Huett, the chairman and co-founder of Arkansas Carry, said the change is needed to restore constitutional rights.

"By allowing open carry, it will also remove an infringement on our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. The Constitution doesn't say that a person may carry firearms as long as they remain concealed," Huett wrote in an e-mail.

Huett said, under current laws allowing concealed weapons, gun owners can be arrested and have their concealed weapons license revoked if they display their firearm, which can happen accidentally.

"This bill is great because it will allow lawful firearm owners to carry their weapons openly without having the fear of being arrested and without having to alter their wardrobe in the summer months to conceal their firearm," he said.

Huett includes the following Bible verse from Luke 22:36 with a quote from Jesus Christ in the signature of his e-mail messages: "... and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one."

A Fayetteville pastor disagrees that carrying guns is a good idea or divinely inspired. The Rev. Lowell Grisham, pastor of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, believes this is contrary to the love that Jesus talks about in the Bible and the phrase "fear not," which is mentioned 365 times, he said.

"It seems silly to me. That's not where I find my security," Grisham said. "It's hard to imagine Jesus carrying a gun."

He also sees other problems.

"That doesn't sound like a real good thing on Dickson Street after 2 a.m. in the morning."