A House committee this morning endorsed Sen. Bryan King’s bill to allow guns in church, if the churches approve, which means final action is close at hand. Gov. Mike Beebe says he’ll sign it.
Some day, I think conflicts will arise
Because the bill couldn’t be more general. The repealer of the prohibition in the concealed carry law says:
However, this subchapter does not preclude a church or other place of worship from determining who may carry a concealed handgun into the church or other place of worship;
Suppose a pistol packer gets reported and arrested for carrying his heater into the little church of which I’m a member. (I won’t embarrass it by mentioning the congregation or speak too presumptively, but I’d be very surprised if it joined a rush to permit guns in the sanctuary.) Must the church really post a sign at every door to give fair warning to Pistol Pete? At the main door? Fellowship hall? Daycare center? Chapel? Office building? It’ll be an unseemly decoration on a place of peace, not exactly a fish or dove or cross. But the law doesn’t allow the elders to simply vote a ban. They must make an outward and visible sign. To bar guns, a church must:
(19) (A) Any place at the discretion of the person or entity exercising control over the physical location of the place by placing at each entrance to the place a written notice clearly readable at a distance of not less than ten feet (10) that “carrying a handgun is prohibited”.
(B) (i) If the place does not have a roadway entrance, there shall be a written notice placed anywhere upon the premises of the place.
Since most churches have roadway entrances, sounds like the “each entrance” standard will apply. Does it apply to freestanding gyms at “churches or places of worship”? Lot of angels need to dance on the head of this legislative pin.
PS — Gun nuts say I have it all wrong. They say that the law keeps guns illegal in church unless a church votes otherwise and that no notice is required either way. I’m not buying that easy alibi. … How is a visitor to know — or even a backslider who doesn’t attend his own church very often? The obvious course for protection is to follow the notice required in the very same statute. To announce that guns are banned. Or to say they are permitted and to what extent. Otherwise, churches hold themselves up to great risks by people making assumptions. Dangerous business, assumptions.
Think of it this way, gun nuts. If it’s a religious violation to make a rule pertaining to churches (the earlier ban on guns) and not others, it’s a government establishment of religion to free ONLY churches from the notice requirement.