LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - Churches will soon have the choice whether to allow concealed guns in their buildings. Senate Bill 71, which gives churches that authority, cleared one of its last hurdles this afternoon. The final vote was 85 in favor and 8 against the bill.For weeks, the bill has been called a gun bill, and though guns are involved, the bill's sponsor Representative Nate Bell says this isn't about the Second Amendment, it's about the First Amendment."You see, the First Amendment begins with these words, Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," quoted Rep. Bell.Bell and others say current Arkansas law interferes with a church's freedom by making the decision for the church. This new law would put that power back in the hands of the church.However, not everyone voted yes on Senate Bill 71. Representative Fredrick Love voted no. He worries this bill comes at a cost to churches, higher insurance premiums."Without having this amendment, people are concerned that their insurance is going to go up that its going to be a liability issue. It's very concerning legislation," said Rep. Love.Governor Mike Beebe says he has heard from religious leaders also concerned about liability issues. He says if this new law needs to be amended, he'd like to get that done this session. The bill becomes law the day Governor Beebe signs it, which he says he will. From there, it's in the hands of the church. A church will decide who, if anyone, is allowed to concealed carry in the building.
COMPLETE COVERAGEMeasures filed to allow guns in church, on campus (Jan. 17)UPDATE: Ark. panel advances proposal on guns in churches (Jan. 23)Bill to allow concealed weapons in churches picks up support (Jan. 23)Churches will soon have a choice to allow guns in the building (Feb. 4)Bill would require signs for gun-allowing churches (Feb. 8)Ark. Gov. signs bill permitting guns in church (Feb. 11)