Beaver firearms code conflicts with state law, council learns

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

BEAVER -- Less than a month after passing its annotated municipal code, the town of Beaver is having to revise a section on firearms because it conflicts with state law.

Beaver town attorney Bill Hill presented two possible revisions to town code for aldermen to consider at Monday's monthly council meeting.

An e-mail letter from a reader dated July 15 stated that Arkansas State Code 14-16-504 prohibits cities, towns and counties from regulating the "ownership, transfer, transportation, carrying, or possession of firearms, ammunition for firearms, or components of firearms."

Although Beaver's code does not mention firearms specifically, Section 7.16, "Prohibited Weapons," makes it unlawful to carry or exchange the following weapons: "any knife, the blade of which is three (3) inches in length, or to carry any instrument commonly called a crabapple switch, dirk, dagger, pick, or any other dangerous or deadly weapon within the city...." It also prohibits the sale, barter or exchange of such.

"By no means does anyone want to control or take anybody's weapons away," said Mayor Chad Hipps, who is also a state police patrolman and a hunter.

"We must not enact any rule inconsistent with the laws of Arkansas, or second, the treaties of the U.S., or the U.S. Constitution," said Hill. "If you enact any inconsistent ordinance, it's most likely void to the extent it conflicts with state law."

Hill proposed two possible revisions to the code. The first makes it unlawful to "carry a weapon or to unsafely discharge a firearm" in the city limits. "Carrying a weapon" is further defined as carrying it "with a purpose to employ it as a weapon against a person."

Prohibited weapons include handguns, clubs and knives, defined as "dirk, sword or spear in a cane, razor, ice pick, and throwing star, switchblade, and butterfly knife."

There are "defenses to prosecution," the amendment adds, such as possessing the weapon in one's home or business; being a law enforcement officer, prison guard or military personnel; being a deputized person assisting the foregoing; carrying on a journey; being a hunter; or being in a motor vehicle and having a concealed carry permit.

The second proposed amendment is shorter and adds only the verbiage about "unsafe discharge" and "purpose to employ it as a weapon."

Hill said the town has had a difficult time getting law enforcement. County enforcement only seems to be promised during election time, he said, and although officers from Game and Fish have been willing to help enforce town rules in the RV Park, they have been reluctant to do so without specific coded ordinances.

Hill recommended passage of the first proposal.

"This can be passed with a majority of the council -- three members," Hill said. "It doesn't need a two-thirds vote." He also said its passage was not urgent.

"You could just repeal this section and rely on the state code," Hill said, "but nobody reads that. If you really want to give people notice, enact Proposal #1 or some version of it."

Council members said they want to think about the changes and revisit them at the next meeting.

Hipps reported he and former mayor John Ratliff would be meeting with Carroll County Judge Ulys K. Smith about the Beaver Bridge. Hipps said he would also request to be on the agenda of the next Quorum Court meeting to discuss the bridge with Justices of the Peace.

Six-month financial statements for the town show a net operating profit of $696, said Treasurer Mary Hill, and a net income of $4,400 for the park. Hipps said the park brought in close to $9,400 before expenses last month and said the park is "doing well." In July the park showed a profit of $4,400, and the town a profit of $622.

Council approved rolling over a Certificate of Deposit with the Bank of Eureka Springs with an interest rate of 3.4 percent.

The council will not meet in September due to scheduling conflicts. The next council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Beaver Fire Station.

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