Directors nix gun event
Act 746 group wanted to hold walk supporting openly carrying firearms
The Texarkana, Ark., Board of Directors rejected a resolution Monday night that would have allowed an event sought by a group of citizens supporting the right to openly carry weapons.
The resolution was to grant permission to Jason Green to hold an Act 746 Celebration Walk from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 28 on State Line Avenue between Bell Avenue and East 32nd Street. According to resolution materials, participants would be walking on the sidewalk and would not impede traffic on State Line. Members would be wearing guns on their hips in acknowledgement of the act, and the walk would provide a venue to educate the public about the ability to legally carry guns in Arkansas in public.
Eighth Judicial District South Prosecuting Attorney Carlton Jones, City Prosecutor Thomas Potter and City Attorney George Matteson oppose the event.
“I would certainly caution you against an assembly that is against the law,” Matteson said before the vote was taken.
Green presented a slide show including pictures of other towns in Arkansas that already allow such walks. Those included: Fort Smith, Van Buren, Bryant, Hot Springs, Cabot, Conway, Maumelle, Little Rock, Pine Bluff, Fayetteville, Mountain View, Russelville, Eureka Springs and Jacksonville. The photos in the slide presentation included citizens, politicians and mothers pushing strollers with guns on their hips.
“Why are other prosecuting attorneys feeling so differently here than in other cities?” Green asked. “Why is Texarkana, Ark., so different from all these other cities?”
Those who voted against the resolution included Mayor Wayne Smith, Ward 2 Director Laney Harris, Ward 3 Director Londell Williams, Ward 4 Director Chad Dowd, Ward 5 Director Mike Jones and Ward 6 Director Sue Johnson. Ward 1 Director Ruth Penney Davis, who had expressed her concerns about the demonstration at Monday’s meeting and the previous meeting, voted for the resolution. She also wanted to see the slide presentation after Smith indicated he did not.
Smith also asked Police Chief Bob Harrison to address the matter before directors voted.
“The Police Department is in the same position as the board,” Harrison said. “If the prosecuting attorney says it’s OK, then you don’t have an issue, we don’t have an issue. I sympathize with these gentlemen, and I believe in Second Amendment rights, but I don’t interpret the law.”
Before the meeting, Russel Green, who is not related to Jason Green but is also a member of Act 746 Patriots, said he does not think the city is wise to prevent the group event.
“We are just wanting to get the city to make a commitment one way or the other … if they approve it, they are supporting our Second Amendment right as well as Arkansas state rights to carry handguns,” Green said. “If they don’t approve, then they become liable for infringement should the Supreme Court in Arkansas (rule in favor of) open-carry rights. The problem is we don’t have any case law. No one has been willing to make a prosecution. So we don’t have a lot to stand on except for old precedents.”
Also before the meeting, Smith said he has no problem with the group gathering publicly but does not agree with them carrying weapons openly on the walk.
“They interpret this act as open carry, and our prosecuting attorney (Carlton Jones) does not interpret (it) as open carry,” Smith said. “Based upon that, we cannot approve them to have open carry. I don’t think we as a board have the right to overrule local law enforcement.”
In a memo to Patrol Division Commander Capt. Mark Lewis that was attached to the agenda, Jones explained his interpretation after reviewing the text of Act 746 of 2013.
“The answer to your inquiry is, no, a person may not ‘openly carry’” a firearm, Jones wrote.
After the board’s vote Monday, Russel Green said he was happy to at least have an answer from the city board one way or the other. He and other supporters have been working on receiving that for about the past two months and have appeared to speak at the past two board meetings. Both Jason Green and Russel Green believe they had been stonewalled by Jones because they had not been able to have a conversations with him after numerous requests had been made.
In other business Monday, directors voted against a resolution requesting the Division of Legislative Audit to perform the city’s annual audit for fiscal years 2014, 2015 and 2016. Earlier Monday, Smith said the division was contacted by city staff about the division completing the 2013 audit, but were informed by audit staff that the city had missed the deadline. Those who voted against the motion were Williams, Dowd, Jones and Johnson. Those who voted for the resolution were Smith, Davis and Harris.