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Arkansas enacts new church gun law

Church of Christ ministers, leaders divided on measure.

Packing heat in the pews — or pulpit — has won the overwhelming approval of Arkansas lawmakers.
The Church Protection Act, which Gov. Mike Beebe signed into law Feb. 11, is drawing mixed reactions from leaders of the state’s more than 700 Churches of Christ.
“I don’t like it at all,” said Ken Jackson, minister for the Lewis Street Church of Christ in Little Rock, citing problems with gangs and crackhouses near the church. “We live right in the middle of where all the crime takes place. We’ve had some issues with former members coming in with guns.”
The Lewis Street church has posted “No Weapons Allowed” signs at its doors.
However, Richard Akins, minister for the Bono Church of Christ in northeast Arkansas, supported the law’s passage.
“I fully understand the theology of ‘turning the other cheek’ and the kingdom not being ‘of the world’ so that Jesus’ servants need to fight,” said Akins, whose congregation has not decided whether it will permit weapons.
“But I don’t think Jesus would apply those principles to a lunatic shooting up a church or to an angry or drunk ex-husband thinking a church assembly is a surefire way to locate and dispatch his hated ex-wife,” the Bono preacher added.
For Akins, the key is that the law gives churches the option of allowing concealed handguns and deciding who — if anyone — may carry weapons on their premises.
“A person should be allowed to carry a firearm in a church that permits the carrying of a firearm for personal security,” according to the measure passed 85-8 by the House and 28-4 by the Senate.
Arkansas joins a small number of states that have passed legislation specifically allowing concealed weapons in houses of worship, CNN reported. While about 20 states allow the practice because of “right to carry” laws, only a few states have singled out churches in legislation.
Little Rock police Capt. Terry Hastings, a 37-year law enforcement veteran, serves as an elder of the Northside Church of Christ in Benton.
Hastings said he has no problem with certified officers carrying weapons in church services or to church activities, as many already do.
“In fact, I encourage it,” he said. “If something happens, we would be calling them for help anyway by dialing 911.”
Likewise, church members with military backgrounds and special weapons training “are very capable of using restraint and good judgment in high-stress situations,” Hastings said.
But the prospect of “ordinary citizens” bringing handguns to worship concerns him and may necessitate decisions on a case-by-case basis, he said.
“In general, I believe this is a good law and could possibly save lives,” Hastings said. “As an elder, however, I have a responsibility to our members to make sure their safety is being taken care of to the best of my ability. … This may require me telling a member, ‘No, you may not carry a concealed handgun in services,’ even though they have a permit.”
The Levy Church of Christ in North Little Rock has appointed a group of men — including shepherds, deacons and law enforcement officials — to study the law and make recommendations, preaching minister Danny Dodd said.
“Preliminary suggestions coming out of this group include discreet but visible signage posted around campus indicating ‘no guns allowed,’ along with proper communication to the church family that only law enforcement people should conceal and carry,” Dodd said.
Like the Levy congregation, the Central Church of Christ in Little Rock is reviewing how to respond, preaching minister Leon Barnes said.
One concern: How will the church’s insurance company react?
As an inner-city church, the Central congregation might be “more likely than anyone to have someone come into a service with ill intents, bent on shooting someone or hurting someone,” Barnes said.
“In light of things that have happened around the country, I would think it might be wise to have someone carrying a gun who has been trained in how to use it,” Barnes said. “But the idea of just everyone who has a concealed-carry license bringing a gun with them to worship doesn’t seem like a wise move at all.”
The Southwest Church of Christ in Jonesboro has not determined what its gun policy will be, but preaching minister Jimmy Adcox said he expects “there will be different opinions about the law and what our response should be.”
For his part, Adcox said he prefers that people not carry guns at church.
“While I understand and sympathize with the desire to protect innocent people, the impulse to carry a gun seems to be driven by fear and control,” Adcox said. “I personally choose not to live that way and prefer that we model a sense of peace and faith as we carry out God’s mission.”
If churches face a danger or threat, then intentional protection by trained law enforcement officers would be a better option than arming members, Adcox said.
That’s exactly what the Lewis Street church has done.
The Little Rock congregation hired a police officer to provide security during Sunday and Wednesday services, Jackson said.
“Even though we have posted signs about the weapons, he is at liberty to do as he pleases because he is a policeman,” Jackson said.

  • Feedback
    My own comments, not those of my congregation: Virginia law is unclear at present. We have a CHP process, but other law forbids the possession of a firearm, knife, or other deadly weapon in “a…house of worship where a religious meeting is to be held without good and sufficient reason”. In addition, the clergy (worship director) may prohibit weapons. Being an NRA Basic Pistol Instructor, I have no problem with discreetly carried firearms in worship.
    Steve Brown
    Edgehill Church of Christ
    Petersburg, VA
    March, 10 2013

    Couple of the things that needs to be remembered is that a person need to have a background check to legally possess a handgun. You also need to get law enforcement authorization to carry concealed. Since both of these are required, I think that it is reasonable for a congregation to require that only those who have these be allowed to carry on congregational property.
    Rochester Church of Christ
    Ortonville, Mi
    March, 2 2013

    “I wonder what the early first century Christians would have done in reaction to Roman rule and persecutions IF they had had guns? Lost in our violent culture we are.” -McElvany Kinda’ of an “apples and motorcycles” argument/comparison. The Roman persecution of Christians versus gangs and crackhouses and muggings and crazies with guns… yeah pretty sure that’s an “apples and motorcycles”. argument.
    Don Neyland
    Church of Christ
    Montegut, LA
    March, 1 2013

    I am confused. This seems to be a conflict of interest. I thought by having faith we were alleviating fear. If we are afraid to be in a “house of God” without a weapon for self defense, just how much faith do we have? I do not think fear is the best motivating factor to confront issues. Maybe if we work harder together and try problem solving, instead of holding on to old and outdated beliefs we could make a little progress.
    heart and head
    Enfield, CT
    March, 1 2013

    First, Luke 22:35-38 has nothing to do with self defense. It certainly was not understood by the early church that way. The early church was against aggressive, violent response to violence. Consider James, Peter, Stephen, etc.
    Second, CCW permit holders are NOT trained to deal with situations such as a shooter in a crowded auditorium. As the shooter in Colorado demonstrated, if tear gas, smoke canisters and other forms of diversion are used an armed and thoroughly confused civilian would be the last thing needed. It takes very specialized and intensive training to handle those high stress and extremely volatile situations.
    If we “get the theology” we must also put it into practice. Those who live by the gun will die by the gun.
    Paul Smith
    Third and Kilgore Church of Christ
    Portales, NM
    United States
    March, 1 2013

    It seems there is a mixed message coming out of the article. Some are saying that they want to allow some to carry, but not others based on their occupation or their previous occupation (law enforcement or military allowed). Well, anyone who possesses a Concealed, Carry license has been trained in the proper use of thier weapon, therefore if the congregation is allowing some to carry, this should be the standard.
    Glenn Landrum
    Sumter,, SC
    March, 1 2013

    Psalm 34:7
    The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.
    Ecclesiastes 9:1
    For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God:
    Job 13:15
    Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
    February, 28 2013

    The new law in Arkansas DOES NOT allow “anyone” to carry a gun in a house of worship. You must have:concealed carry permit; congregations must approve each individual carries by officially recognizing individual/s in a corporate letter; individual congregations can specify specific training for those individuals; and most importantly “NO GUNS ON PREMISES” carries the force of law. So, Ken’s NO WEAPONS ALLOWED is the law in that house of worship in that town in Arkansas. Cops can carry anywhere. So in reality the Lewis Street Church of Christ had an approved carry policy before the state legislature. Seems even those against the new law still want guns on their premises. Rather mute article.
    Don Neyland
    Church of Christ
    Montegut, LA
    February, 28 2013

    To those who say weapons have no place in church: read Luke 22:35-38 where Jesus tells his disciples if they don’t have a sword, to sell their cloak and buy one.
    Jesus himself said protection via a sword is more important than protection via a cloak.
    Tony Flint
    Hillcrest Church of Christ, Neosho, MO
    Joplin, MO
    February, 28 2013

    The Alpine Church of Christ in Longview, Texas formed a committee two years ago to discuss and plan for better security and safety for our congregation and visitors. On any given Sunday or Wednesday, there are at least 24-30 men (and probably some sisters, too) who are armed and ready to defend our body of Christ from people who intend to harm or murder others. This is a dangerous world in which we live and worship. It is better to be prepared than to be sorry.
    C. V. Dickson
    Alpine church of Christ
    Longview, Texas
    February, 28 2013

    I wonder what the early first century Christians would have done in reaction to Roman rule and persecutions IF they had had guns? Lost in our violent culture we are.
    Gordon McElvany
    Church of Christ
    Aransas Pass, Texas
    February, 28 2013

    Concealed carry permit holders OKed to carry in church and schools has passed one house in North Dakota. No doubt will also pass on the other size since ND is a very one-sided gun rights state. Would be allowed with permission of church or school approval.
    John Irby
    Bismarck, North Dakota
    February, 28 2013

    I’m reminded of a comic strip I saw years ago. In caption one, the owner of a dog speaks intelligent words to him. Caption two is the dogs understanding of those intelligent words which were “bla, bla, bla.” When you post “no guns allowed” signs, the hard core criminal or psychopath who is determined to kill reads, “bla, bla, bla”. Two thumbs up for Arkansas law makers!
    Scott Spencer
    Central Ave Church of Christ
    Fairborn, Ohio
    February, 28 2013

Filed under: National

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