On Monday, the Arkansas House passed a measure to repeal a law that banned guns in church. Dubbed the Church Protection Act, Gov. Mike Beebe is expected to sign it into law, allowing all churchgoers to pack heat while attending service.
Some members of the faith community have expressed concerns. Red. Scott Walters, pastor of the Christ Episcopal Church in downtown Little Rock, wrote a letter to the Arkansas Times expressing his concern with the legislation:
The legislature’s action has already impacted our ministry at Christ Church. It’s given us one more hurdle, one more fear to deal with as we try to do our Christian duty and welcome a stranger into our midst as if he or she were Christ himself. Its impact is not hypothetical. It is real. Loving our neighbor just got a little harder.
If signed, Arkansas will join just a handful of other states, including South Carolina, Louisiana and Wyoming, that allows guns in churches, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"I want to offer those who come into congregations the safety and sanctuary that has traditionally served as a hallmark of congregations," said Robert Klein, a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Little Rock. "To add the uncertainty about who might be carrying a weapon into the mix is an unnecessary and inappropriate result of this legislation."
According to Guns.com, another bill making its way through the Arkansas Legislature would allow 130,000 concealed carry permit holders in the state remain private. Currently, concealed carry permits are a matter of public record.
The bill is in response to the decision by the Journal-News to publish the names and addresses of permit holders in several counties following the tragic shooting in a Newtown, Connecticut school.