Mason Brannon of Paragould was arrested on March 1st for carrying a firearm without a concealed carry permit. Brannon’s arrest, and his pending prosecution, could serve as the first “test case” of Act 746, which became law last year. However, the trial won’t be a walk in the park for Prosecutor Scott Ellington — because Act 746 imposes a new, and especially high, burden of proof on the state. Thanks to Act 746, possession of a firearm is no longer a crime in Arkansas.
Under the act, which has been codified under ACA 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…
That means Ellington (or any other prosecutor faced with a similar case) will have to prove that the accused had an intent to “unlawfully employ” or use the handgun. How would you prove something like that? I have no idea, so I contacted Ellington’s office last week to gain some insight. I was promised a call back, but as of press time, I have not received one.
I did speak, however, with Brannon’s attorney, Shane Ethridge of Hot Springs. He summarized the arrest this way:
The police report says an anonymous person told the officers Mason had a gun at a store. They remembered he had a warrant for failure to pay on a seat belt ticket — went to get him on the seat belt warrant — found the gun — charged him with carrying a weapon.
Ethridge himself has apparently had difficulty getting a response from Ellington, so he provided this brief summary of the case:
There’s really not much to it as far as what is there and what isn’t there from what I can gather. He wasn’t open carrying. But he didn’t have a CCHL. I have attempted to contact the prosecutor and haven’t received a response to this point, but certainly understand it is a big judicial district and the trial date is a ways off so I suspect there will be talk between now and then.
Ethridge said that, as far as he knows, there are no prohibitions on carrying a firearm in the store where the arrest was made.
Finally, I asked Ethridge if he thought there was any chance that the charges might be dropped:
The Sheriff of Greene County has indicated to me that he intends to push forward for prosecution of the case. I do not believe the charge will be dropped.
(By the way, I had my own interaction with the Greene County Sheriff today. He told me that he’d require $10 in order to comply with my public information request and that he would only supply the documents if I arrived in person. I am fairly certain these demands constitute a violation of the state’s Freedom Of Information Act.
We’re working to see if we can get this sorted out, but in the meantime, this cellphone pic of the second page of Brannon’s arrest report will have to do. Update, 4/23/14: the sheriff’s office has reluctantly released these documents that are related to Brannon’s arrest.)
The trial date is tentatively set for June 9th, but it may be moved, according to Ethridge. We will certainly be following further developments.