Arkansas State Senate Approves Concealed Guns in Churches
The Arkansas state Senate has voted to approve a measure allowing concealed handguns into churches and other places of worship.
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 28-4 to approve the Church Protection Act of 2013 (SB 71), which was sponsored by state Sen. Bryan King (R- Green Forest). Churches and other places of worship are now free to decide on an individual basis whether to allow parishioners to bring concealed firearms with them, something Sen. King believes could prevent future mass shootings.
“This just gives each church the ability to handle their own security,” Sen. King told his colleagues before Monday’s vote.
From the bill:
It is found and determined by the General Assembly of the State of Arkansas that personal security is increasingly important; that the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States ensures a person’s right to bear arms; and that this act is immediately necessary because a person should be allowed to carry a firearm in church that permits the carrying of a firearm for personal safety.
According to the National Rifle Association, Arkansas was one of only 10 states that specifically banned concealed weapons in places of worship.
Gov. Mike Beebe, a Democrat, said he would sign the bill into law if it makes it to his desk. The next step is passage by the House of Representatives, where Republicans enjoy a 51-48 advantage.
Many state church leaders said they were opposed to having guns in places of holy worship. Some Christian clergy members noted the irony of carrying weapons while worshipping Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.
“I can’t imagine the need to bring a gun into church. I just think that’s unnecessary, and I think it sends a terrible message,” Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor, pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church in Pine Bluff, told the Huffington Post. “Religion can be an emotional thing in people’s lives. I would hate to see guns present when people’s emotions are running high.”
Arkansas would not be the first state to allow guns into places of worship. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican, signed a bill in 2010 legalizing concealed weapons in churches and other places of worship. A similar measure almost passed in Michigan last year, but Gov. Rick Snyder, also a Republican, vetoed it.
Dozens of churches across the nation also use gun classes as a way to attract new members. One church in Oklahoma even planned to give away an AR-15 assault rifle to a teenager in a 2008 contest to encourage youth attendance but canceled the promotion following national outrage.
Then there’s Ken Pagano, pastor of the New Bethel Church in Louisville, Kentucky, who made international headlines in 2009 when he invited his flock to bring their guns to church to “celebrate our rights as Americans.”
“Not every Christian denomination is pacifist,” Pagano explained to the New York Times. Pagano’s “God, Guns, Gospel and Geometry” sermon was a big hit, as was ‘Bring Your Guns to Church Day,’ at which parishioners participated in a $1 handgun raffle, firearms safety lessons and a picnic.