“Today, the Senate passed a important piece of legislation for citizen protection. We should allow churches the right to decide how best to handle their own security rather than force them to be defenseless.”
In opposition to the bill, Senator Linda Chesterfield spoke from the floor saying, “My Lord’s house is a house of prayer, and I’m voting against this bill,” according to a KARK reporter. But, she apparently knew the votes were in: “I’m aware when a train is rolling and I’m about to be run over by the caboose,” she said. Senators Joyce Elliott, Stephanie Flowers, and David Thompson joined Chesterfield in voting against the bill. They were the only dissenting votes.
I tried to contact Senator Flowers for comment twice today. The first time, she told me she was busy and said “call me back in twenty minutes” before hanging up the phone. When I called back a short time later, I identified myself and she said, “Um, I’m in a meeting. Bye,” and hung up the phone.
The bill would allow each church to determine its own gun carrying policy, but would still make carrying a concealed handgun illegal by default, despite some reports to the contrary by the mainstream media.
(Notably, Arkansas Business mistakenly reported last week that the bill would “allow concealed handguns in churches” and “remove churches from the list of locations where concealed handguns are prohibited.” This is false. In fact, SB71 leaves concealed weapons as forbidden by default, but adds a caveat allowing churches to designate particular members to carry. View the language of the bill for yourself here.)
The bill now heads to the House for consideration.
We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of this bill as it moves through the legislature.