LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas House of Representatives approved a bill Feb. 11 that would allow people with concealed-weapon permits to bring their guns to church.
The bill, approved by the House by a vote of 57-42, now goes to the state Senate. If passed, it would amend to state’s gun laws to remove “any church or other place of worship” from a list of places where firearms are currently banned.
Rep. Beverly Pyle (R-Cedarville) said she introduced the measure, which has 14 co-sponsors, in response to a series of church shootings across the country.
“It is time we changed our concealed-handgun law to allow law-abiding citizens of the state of Arkansas the right to defend themselves and others should a situation happen in one of our churches,” Pyle said, according to the Associated Press.
Proponents of the bill point to incidents like the 2007 shooting at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., where a gunman killed two and wounded three others before he was shot down by an armed security guard while heading toward an auditorium packed with 7,000 worshipers.
Opponents say it flies in the face of the centuries-old tradition of the church as a “sanctuary” free from the fear of violence.
Drew Smith, director of international programs at Henderson State University and a Baptist minister, called House passage of the bill “a hasty and tragic response to our need to feel safe everywhere we go.”
If the bill passes into law, Smith said in his blog, “I would hope that faithful Christians and faithful churches would reject the need to arm themselves, reject the attempt to create false security, and most importantly, reject violence and the system that promotes it as necessary.”