Ark. panel advances proposal on guns in churches

    11:52 PM, Jan 23, 2013   |    comments
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    Arkansas State Capitol, Little Rock

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Packing heat in church--right now, it's illegal in Arkansas to carry a concealed weapon inside any place of worship, but if a new bill is passed, that could change; it's called the Church Protection Act of 2013. It gives places of worship the right to allow certain people with concealed carry permits to bring their weapon inside the building.

    You'd rarely hear about the top from the pulpit, but it's one Pastor Phillip Pointer of St. Mark Baptist Church doesn't take lightly.

    "We are very serious about protecting our members. Our uniformed officers carry and our plain clothes officers carry concealed and of course, they've been fully trained by the city in whatever jurisdiction they serve in to do so, so we are comfortable that they are professionals," said Pastor Phillip Pointer.

    Pastor Pointer said are professionals with experience in life threatening situations, which is something a person with a concealed carry permit may not have.

    "You're talking about a church our size or a church smaller--50 or 100 persons. That's a serious responsibility," said Pastor Pointer.

    It's a responsibility Senate Bill 71 said should be up to the place of worship to decide how to handle instead of prohibiting concealed carriers with weapons from all places of worship.

    Across town at Temple B'nai Israel, Rabbi David Lipper said locked doors and extra precaution keeps his congregation safe.

    "I would feel less safe knowing the building was filled with people carrying weapons," said Rabbi Lipper.

    Much like St. Mark Baptist Church, Rabbi Lipper said officers are summoned in necessary situations, but both faith leaders agree handing the responsibility over to its members is not the answer.

    "Of course, we want churches to be secure. I want our church to be secure and every church to be secure but how we secure it is an issue," said Pastor Pointer.

    We did speak with several other churches over the phone that declined to comment on camera, but said they also have off duty police officers that serve as security. Many of them said they would only consider giving that responsibility to trained members of the congregation.

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