Ark. House Panel OKs Guns in Church Measure

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Arkansas lawmakers are a step closer to approving a law to allow concealed handguns in churches.

A House committee endorsed the legislation after hearing testimony from pastors who were split on whether it would make their sanctuaries safer.

Supporters said their churches can be targeted by criminals during services and throughout the week.

"What you have before is simply a question of who gets to make that determination for each church," said supporter Nathan Petty, pastor of Beech Grove Baptist Church in Fordyce, told lawmakers.

"The question is not is it right or wrong?" he said. "The question is who has the right to make that decision. This just says that church gets to make that decision."

Opponents said it conflicts with the mission of churches to be sanctuaries from violence.

"Concealed carry in our churches, in the unfortunate event of some kind of violence erupting, could potentially result in not fewer but more people being hurt," Gordon Garlington, pastor of Park Hill Presbyterian Church in North Little Rock, told the panel.

The measure will head to the statehouse floor for a vote next week. It's already passed the state Senate.

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