Lawmakers To Consider Arkansas Concealed-Carry Bills


Staff member
Some Arkansas lawmakers are trying to tinker with the state's gun laws to expand the places where concealed-carry permit holders can take their handguns.

One proposal, to allow concealed guns in churches and other places of worship, is headed to the House Judiciary Committee this week. The bill's backer, Rep. Beverly Pyle, R-Cedarville, said she introduced the bill after a resident mentioned concerns about a handful of high-profile church shootings.

"It is a safety issue, because so many things have happened," Pyle said. "I just want to make sure if it happens in Arkansas that we're prepared, that we do have an option. We'll be glad we did."

In 2007, a gunman shot and killed two people at the Youth With a Mission training center in the Denver suburb of Arvada, then killed two more people at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. The shooter, Matthew Murray, later killed himself.

In New Jersey last year, a man killed his estranged wife and a parishioner during a church service, while another man last year killed two and wounded six when he fired three blasts with a sawed-off shotgun at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville.

"I feel like we really have a problem," Pyle said. "We need to be proactive instead of reactive if something happens."

Pyle's measure is cosponsored by 14 lawmakers _ nine Republicans and five Democrats. It includes a provision allowing churches to post signs banning concealed guns from their property.

"A lot of churches ... have some kind of security that they have paid to come in," she said. "This in some ways would help the smaller churches that can't afford the security."

A similar measure died a decade ago in the Legislature.

The state's concealed-carry law now bans hidden guns from police stations, all state highway department buildings except rest stops, jails, courthouses, polling places, sporting events, parades, state offices, schools and places that serve alcohol. It also bans concealed guns in the meeting places of governing bodies _ such as a city council or school board _ and at any legislative meeting.

Another measure that lawmakers could consider this session would allow concealed handguns in the parking lots of colleges and universities and the state Capitol grounds.

The bill by Rep. Randy Stewart, D-Kirby, has yet to come up before the House Judiciary Committee. Stewart, a former Olympic shooter who also is a concealed-carry permit instructor, has said he introduced the legislation so lawmakers and other visitors to the Capitol could leave their guns in their locked cars.

Stewart said he included the colleges and universities in the bill primarily because of requests he's heard from constituents attending college at night who want to keep guns in their vehicles.

Nearly every session, lawmakers have attempted to expand the state's concealed-carry law. A decade ago, a bill that would have allowed concealed guns in public parks, some sporting events and restaurants died in a Senate committee. It originally would have allowed hidden guns in churches, but that provision was removed because of opposition.

Six years ago, lawmakers agreed to allow concealed-handgun permit holders to take weapons into restaurants and parks. That measure was signed into law by Gov. Mike Huckabee.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)
Source: Pine Bluff Commercial Online Edition

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