Guns in Churches: New Bill Reopens Debate

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The sounds of organ pipes ring through the sanctuary on Scott Street.

“We’re charged with trying to figure out how to welcome every single person who walks in here as if its Jesus walking in the doors,” he said, a line of pews behind him.

Serenity is what Reverend Scott Walters aims to offer at Christ Church in downtown Little Rock.

“Is that person carrying a gun? We’d rather not be having that conversation,” Reverend Walters said.

Now that the “Guns in Church” bill is on the books, Walters is wondering how many times his congregation will face a firearm on accident, like they did recently.

“An usher rushes up the aisle to a priest, this was less than two weeks ago,” he said. “She told him that someone had walked in and there was a huge bulge in his pocket. It looked like there might be a pistol butt hanging out of it. Her question to us was what do I do?”

The current law doesn’t require churches to notify the public of its concealed carry policy either way, something the laws supporters still stand by.

“Making churches put signs on the doors is something I’m not in favor of,” said House Speaker Rep. Davy Carter.

But Walters can see why it would be unclear for the public. Now, with concealed carry allowed in some congregations, he feels as if he’s being held responsible for alerting the public that his church is still gun free.

“If my choice was to simply to put signs that say no guns to me there’s something akin to putting up barbed wire and bars on the window,” he said. “To me, that doesn’t seem welcoming. That’s a red flag for a visitor. They’ll wonder, what’s wrong with this place? Why would I even think I needed a gun at church?”

A new House bill would require signs outside of churches if concealed carry weapons are allowed. It’s what Governor Mike Beebe calls “clean up” legislation guided by clergy’s suggestions.

“There have been a lot of pastors, bishops, and other clergy who don’t want to have to put up signage if churches were to remain gun free,” Beebe said. “But if a church wants to allow weapons inside, then they believe there needs to be signage to make it clear that’s available.”

While the debate continues on the law’s finer details, it’s safe to say Christ Church is and will remain a gun-free house of God.

“The people I’ve talked to don’t feel safer knowing there are more guns in the room,” Walters said. “For that usher, the fear was real and the anxiety was real. There are other ways to solve our problems that don’t involve guns.”

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