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Arkansas to allow concealed guns in churches
February 5th, 2013
02:00 PM ET

Arkansas to allow concealed guns in churches

By Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) - The Arkansas House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a measure that would allow concealed guns to be carried in churches and houses of worship, and the governor’s office says it plans to sign the bill.

The measure, which passed 85-8 on Monday, gives houses of worship the option of allowing concealed weapons.

Passed by the state Senate in an equally lopsided 28-4 vote last week, the bill states it is “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety” because “personal security is increasingly important.”

“A person should be allowed to carry a firearm in a church that permits the carrying of a firearm for personal security,” the bill reads.

The bill was originally sponsored by Republican state Sen. Bryan King from Green Forest, a rural town in northern Arkansas. In an interview with CNN, he called churches "soft targets" that deserved to be able to protect themselves.

"In the previous law, people with a concealed carry licence could not carry in church. No carry was allowed," said King. "Now, this just allows each church to make their own individual decision."

In particular, King said, the law was important for rural communities, where "it could be thirty minutes to an hour" before police respond to a violent incident in a church.

Matt DeCample, spokesman for Democrat Gov. Mike Beebe, told CNN the governor plans “to sign the bill as written” but also wants to “continue discussions with lawmakers to address concerns raised by the faith community.”

Religious leaders were primarily concerned about any effect the law would have on insurance rates for houses of worship that choose to allow concealed weapons, but proponents downplayed the concern, saying multiple states have similar laws.

“Additional language is definitely possible,” the governor’s spokesman said.

A number of churches, including one of the state’s largest Fellowship Bible Church, told CNN they were reserving comment until the bill is signed by the governor or church leaders have decided whether to allow concealed weapons.

When the bill becomes law, Arkansas would join a small number of states that have passed legislation specifically allowing concealed weapons in houses of worship. While about 20 states allow the practice because of “right to carry” laws, only a few states have singled out houses of worship in legislation.

In April 2011, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said that bringing a concealed firearm into a house of worship for protection purposes is allowed under Virginia law.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Arkansas • Houses of worship • Violence • Virginia • Weapons

soundoff (999 Responses)
  1. lazurite

    All that's missing is the apple pie.

    February 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  2. JFox

    If your idea of a place of worship is a gun range, you might be a redneck

    February 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  3. Rick

    Wait a min' thar, ain't God supposed to protect 'em Arkansas folk?

    February 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
  4. Shaggy

    Like much of the South, Arkansas is very poorly educated with the second lowest percentage of college graduates (http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/education/educational_attainment.html), has the second lowest average income (http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/statemedian/) over the last three years, is the 9th fattest (http://www.businessinsider.com/fattest-states-in-america-2011-7?op=1), and is tied for 9th for fewest times winning Miss America! So the state is poor, dumb, fat and ugly, like the rest of the south.

    But they are the 5th most religious state! So like the rest of the south, they love God. And he responds by blessing them with more dumb, fat, uneducated, ugly kids!

    February 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • Mr. N.

      And you are a perfect example of what education does to those not smart enough to take it: All your "arguments" don't say anything to the point of whether or not those in Arkansas have made the right decision. Ever heard the term non-sequitur?

      February 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      How about 4th highest for teen mothers? They get that one too.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  5. Maryanne

    headline reads: Arkansas–First State to Impose Bullet Proof Pews For Churches

    February 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  6. WildWildWest

    We criticize the Muslim world for being uncivilized and violent, but we are not any better. How can you allow guns in a place of worship? It is a paradox!

    February 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • Mr. N.

      Because intolerant, anti-religious bigots have shot up churches and temples in the past. Also, you may want to look up the term "paradox." It doesn't mean what you think it does. Such poor education nowadays!

      February 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
  7. LotsofAmmo

    Sounds like a good idea. You never know when some drunk redneck will make a grab at the basket.

    February 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  8. Woody HILLIARD

    If gun carrying is ever made legal in churches in my home state and my congregation permits it........my wife and I are leaving on that day.

    February 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
  9. pbernasc

    Middle Ages are coming back in full swing in the US

    February 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
  10. The EnergyGuy

    We can all assume that the sermons will now be shorter.

    February 5, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  11. JohnnyZ

    It isn't illegal in Florida to carry in church if you are licensed. You can also carry at your doctor, grocery store, tire shop, dentist, etc. It is not illegal because it is a good idea. Anyone legally carrying is not going to shoot anyone unless they are threatening your life.

    February 5, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • Duh!

      Ummm dopey remark of the day....

      February 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • WildWildWest

      That is why it is called FloriDUH!

      February 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Duh!

      On February 12, 2012, Moises Zambrana, 48, accidently discharged his handgun, resulting in the death of 20-year-old Hannah Kelley. The shooting occurred in Grace Connection Church in St. Petersburg, Florida while Zambrana was showing another congregation member his handgun. Although Zambrana thought the gun was unloaded, he left a bullet in the chamber, which was discharged through a wall before striking Kelley, the pastor’s daughter, in the head. She died in a hospital the following Saturday.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • Woody HILLIARD

      Can you give us a biding contract to that effect? Even if not intended , I don't think a crowded church or any other public gathering place needs a shoot out going on. The police don't start firing away on a crowded city street.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Duh!

      Justin Campos, 25, has been sentenced to life in prison for his role in a January 18, 2011 shooting that left two men dead. After engaging in an argument with another group of men outside of Lookers, a Fort Myers area strip club, Campos fatally shot Juan Miguel Sanchez-Perdomo, 20, and Carlos Deleon-Ortiz, 29.

      The jury did not accept Campos’ claim of self-defense and convicted him of one count of second-degree murder and one count of manslaughter. Campos, a member of the National Rifle Association, held a Florida concealed handgun permit at the time of the killings.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Duh!

      On December 10, 2010, Emanuel Rivera, 26, fatally shot 25-year-old LeKeefe Lee. Rivera sold drugs out of his Daytona Beach, Florida home. Lee, a regular customer, left Rivera’s home with three ounces of marijuana that he had not paid for. Rivera followed Lee outside and shot him as he attempted to drive away. He then called 911 to report the incident and claimed that he acted in self-defense after fearing that Lee was reaching for a gun.

      Rivera, who showed police a valid concealed handgun permit at the scene of the shooting, was charged with delivery of a controlled substance and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He was later charged with second-degree murder.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Duh!

      On November 24, 2010, Thomas Baker, a 28-year-old resident of Town ‘n’ Country, Florida, decided to go for a 1:00 AM jog while carrying a loaded handgun and $950 cash. 18-year-old Carlos Mustelier saw Baker and decided to "bam him" (Mustelier knew Baker and his younger brother, who he had been in an altercation with previously). Mustelier was unarmed and punched Baker in the face. Baker responded by shooting Mustelier four times, including twice in the back, killing him.

      Baker told police he believed that Mustelier had a gun, and was not charged with a crime. Baker possesses a valid permit to carry a concealed handgun.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:05 pm |
    • Bet

      Anyone legally carrying is not going to shoot anyone unless they are threatening your life.

      Sure, because no one who legally carries a gun has ever used it for anything other than good.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • Duh!

      Should I continue or do you concede that your comment was at the very least...stupid and disconnected with fact?

      February 5, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • Mr. N.

      Look Duh! can look up things on google!! Can Duh! look up statistical significance, too? Here's your homework, Duh!: How do a couple of incidents make for a statistically significant figure. Or is googling the best you can do?

      February 5, 2013 at 5:08 pm |
  12. Bill Graham

    Another reason not to go to church.

    February 5, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
    • AKSean

      Just one more good reason to avoid those establishments

      February 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Buck

      So, only people that illegally carry a concealed weapon can ever bring a gun into church?

      February 5, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  13. Al Peace

    God needs protection , eh?

    February 5, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  14. JB

    Last week they passed their own anti-abortion law to bypass federal law. This is the first Republican majority in AR General Assembly since 1874. Next week they'll be rounding up the "infidels" for execution. Help us.

    February 5, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  15. Meleweb2

    What is going on in the churches of Arkansas that parishioners feel the need to carry a gun?

    February 5, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • Mr. N.

      The same thing that's been happening in other churches and temples for some time now: Intolerant, derrange criminals have targetted those in organized religion in the past, and will do it again.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
  16. Mack

    One step forward, two steps back. These backwards states and their guns and god. Hard to move foward with these guys always in the way.

    February 5, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
    • Mr. N.

      No, the backwards ones are the anti-religious bigots that have shot up churches and other temples in the past. What rock do you live under?

      February 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Yes because a Christian has never shot up anything. Let's just all let that sink in a minute.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
    • Mr. N.

      hawaiianguest,

      Wherever you studied (assuming you did), you need to get your money back. Ever heard the term 'non-sequitur'?

      February 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @Mr. N

      Yes, but you apparently have never heard of presenting evidence for your assertions? See, I could actually point to Christians shooting places up because of their religion. God telling them to do so, etc.
      So, let's see if you will ignore your own unjustified premise, or if you'll actually justify it.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  17. swohio

    Guns have no place in church.

    February 5, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  18. Sam

    Mohammad would be proud.

    February 5, 2013 at 4:55 pm |
  19. SFRich

    As one Arkansan church goes says to another, "Are you happy to see Jesus, or is that a gun in your pocket?"

    February 5, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
  20. Peter

    Only in the US are people so afraid of each other that hey need to carry a gun even to a church. How sad. And what does it say about the prevailing social culture?

    February 5, 2013 at 4:52 pm |
    • Madtown

      You're right, hard to deny. Pretty sad culture here, from guns in church to Honey Boo Boo.

      February 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Mr. N.

      There have been shootings at churches and temples. Maybe Christians just need to protect themselves from intolerant bigots like the ones posting here?

      February 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm |
    • Doug

      I know. Guns turn otherwise non-violent people violent due to their ease of use and access.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • TANK!!!!

      A church is where you would need a gun the most. With all the people claiming to hear a man in the sky talking to them and all, you never know when one of them will snap.

      February 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.