Capital City Congregation Held at Gunpoint Fires Off on Enhanced Carry Debate

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A new Arkansas law allows churches to arm its parishioners for active shooter situations like the one in Sutherland Springs, TX.

The question is: would it save more lives?

A lot of churches have kept quiet about the legislation, but one capital city congregation who is no stranger to gun violence weighed in. 

"We heard a knock and the door was coming open," said Ola Bea Franklin. "There were three men saying, 'This is a robbery! This is a robbery!' I just didn't move. I just had my head down praying."

Three young men, armed with semi-automatic guns, demanded cash, jewelry and cell phones from Franklin and 16 other parishioners, including children, at Third Baptist Church on a Sunday morning in September 2011.

"I wasn't getting on that floor like they were yelling because me and the Lord were talking," Franklin said. "I was not getting on no floor." 

After ten minutes of terror, the suspects, 20, 15 and 14 years old, ran off, firing one lone gunshot into the air.

"I did not get scared because the Lord was with me," Franklin said. "Really, he was with all of us because all of us could have gotten killed right there." 

Fast forward to 2017, where Arkansas lawmakers have given church congregations the option to carry guns in their pews.

"Instead of taking guns to church, let them take their bibles to church," Franklin said. "That's what counts."

But the lawmaker behind the new enhanced carry law believes what counts is deterring crime.

"In the eyes of someone who may be considering some horrific opportunity to kill people, it allows locations to at least leave a question mark whether their location is in fact gun free or not," said Rep. Charlie Collins, R-Fayetteville.

Churches can allow guns or prohibit them with signs or verbal warnings, but will more gun violence encourage more places of worship to arm their parishioners?

"Obviously, I'm going to defer to them to make those decisions," said Rep. Collins.

"If the devil jumps in them, they're going to do it," Franklin said. 

That's why Franklin has a gun at home, but you'll never see it because she's armed with something else.

"I don't be nervous because I take the Lord with me," she said. "I've lived 85 years so I'm going to live some more."

Rep. Collins believes three things will help the state deter some of these "crazy killers," like the one in Sutherland Springs: the new enhanced carry law, security plan exemptions to the FOI law and the re-implementation of the death penalty. 

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