Little Rock, Arkansas — Senators in Arkansas overwhelmingly passed a bill this week allowing pastors to decide whether to permit their congregants to carry handguns in church.
Arkansas is one of ten states across the nation that prohibits citizens from entering a church with a gun at any time. However, the Church Protection Act of 2013, introduced by Republican Senator Bryan King, outlines that self-defense is a necessity even inside of a church.
“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 a church that permits the carrying of a firearm for personal security,” the law outlines.
According to reports, the law would only apply to those permitted to conceal carry. It passed the Senate by 28 to 4 this week.
However, pastors throughout the state seem to be quite divided over the matter.
“I can’t imagine the need to bring a gun into a church. I just think that’s unnecessary, and I think it sends a terrible message,” 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.”
Pastor Bob Johnson at First Baptist Church of Harrison said that he supports the bill.
“Anybody could walk in that door and just let bullets fly, and I’d like to limit that damage as much as possible,” he told local station KSPR. “I personally would rather have someone I know carrying around here or some way to protect us or protect our people.”
Johnson stated that he and his wife plan to take a conceal and carry class.
“Actually, my wife and I are scheduled to go through it in March together,” he explained.
Following its passage in the Senate, the House Judiciary Committee voted to let the Church Protection Act move forward in the House. If it ultimately passes, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, said he will sign the legislation into law. Senator Bryan King had presented the same bill in 2009, but it failed in the Senate. It is likely that the recent massacre in Newtown, Connecticut had an influence on this week’s vote.
The divide over the issue of gun legislation among church leaders not only exists in Arkansas, however, as the nationwide Church as a whole seems to be split over the matter. One pastor says that he sees both sides of the coin.
“Those on the left think that somehow by manufacturing more laws, problems like this can be prevented. In fact, the left would like nothing more than to remove guns from society if possible,” writes Pastor Timothy Hammons of Redeemer Fellowship of Roswell, New Mexico. “The right wants to make sure we keep our right to guns. This is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it is our freedom to have guns, and we have the right and freedom to resort to using guns if necessary. The other edge is that we will continue to live in a society where those like Adam Lanza don’t have to buy any guns, but can find them when they want to.”
“The real problem is not guns, but the heart. The real answer to this is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not more laws,” he continued. “Laws were never intended to change the heart, only through the Gospel can that happen. To the world that asks ‘why?’ this is foolishness. But it is the only real answer to the questions.”