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Guns in church, abortion bills sweep through the House

By Lee Hogan

This article was originally published February 4, 2013 at 2:21 p.m. Updated February 4, 2013 at 5:14 p.m.


The Arkansas House meets Monday, Feb. 4, at the state Capitol.

House passes guns in church bill, two abortion bills

House Speaker Davy Carter speaks with the media following the Monday House session, which saw the House pass guns in church legislation along with two bills concerning abortion. (By Lee Hogan)
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Hot-button bills swept through the Arkansas House on Monday with overwhelming support, but Gov. Mike Beebe's office is taking its time to consider whether some of those bills can stand up to the Constitution.

Representatives approved a bill titled The Church Protection Act of 2013 on Monday, 85-8, to permit concealed handguns in churches and other houses of worship.

The bill, which was approved by the the Arkansas Senate last week in a 28-4 vote, would allow places of worship in Arkansas to decide whether to allow concealed weapons on the property.

Rep. Nate Bell, R-Mena, explained the bill and responded to some concerns raised by its opponents. Bell said the bill does not remove all churches from the list of prohibitive places — noting if an individual church does not want concealed weapons on its property, nothing changes.

Bell said the bill is meant to provide an exemption for churches who cannot afford to hire paid security.

Some opponents have also expressed concern that the bill would result in increased insurance rates for the participating churches. Bell said those churches should have nothing to worry about, citing around 40 states with similar bills.

"There is no logical reason that insurance companies would single out Arkansas churches when they have not in other states," Bell said.

The legislation will now go back to the Senate for a vote to approve the addition of new sponsors to the bill, originally sponsored by Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest.

Matt DeCample, a spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said Monday before the vote that the governor still plans to sign the bill, but that he "also plans on working with legislators to come up with additional language to provide some protection for the churches."

The House also passed two bills dealing with abortion Monday afternoon.

HB 1037, referred to as the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, passed the House by a vote of 75-20. If signed into law, the bill would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, said the studies have shown that 20 weeks was the point a fetus was capable of feeling pain.

The bill does not include an exception for cases of rape or incest, which drew criticism from Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville.

Standing before his fellow representatives, Leding admitted it was hard to stand in opposition but said he would vote against the bill because no exception was made for rape, incest or the fetal condition. Leding went on to say that he and other members who voted against the bill did not do so out of lack of compassion, faith or regard and respect for life.

"The decision should be left to the mother, father, doctor and their god," Leding said.

Mayberry responded to Leding's criticism of no exceptions in the bill for rape or incest by saying the fetus should not be held responsible.

"That child still had nothing to do with that act," Mayberry said. "That child shouldn't be asked to pay the ultimate price with their own life."

HB 1100 — a bill that would prohibit insurance policies from providing coverage for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or the well-being of the mother — passed the House in a 77-15 vote.

Both bills now head to a Senate committee.

The Senate approved Senate Bill 134 last Thursday, sponsored by Sen. Jason Rapert, R-Bigelow, which would ban abortions as early as six weeks.

Gov. Mike Beebe said Monday morning that his office is still researching the legality of that bill, but said early research shows that the bill could be unconstitutional.

Beebe said his office is also researching the legality of HB 1037 and HB 1100.

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.


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Kajon says... February 4, 2013 at 3:03 p.m.

"protection for the churches"? I thought this is what the bill was all about; allowing each church membership to set up its own rules regarding protecting its members.

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rumrunner says... February 4, 2013 at 3:17 p.m.

Now they need to work on a law that would require employees of gas stations, C-stores, pharmacies & liquor stores to be armed.

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dman says... February 4, 2013 at 3:30 p.m.

Why pass the bill as is....why not work on the language now to protect the churches?

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NSTEHLE says... February 4, 2013 at 3:43 p.m.

The churches are protected. The liability stuff was just an attempt to insert a poison-pill amendment into the bill by the very same people who opposed it two years ago on different grounds.

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RBBrittain says... February 4, 2013 at 3:44 p.m.

My biggest worry: What if the preacher "steps on the toes" of a churchgoer packing heat?

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Jackabbott says... February 4, 2013 at 3:59 p.m.

This bill does absolutely nothing to enhance the state of Arkansas, it churches or its citizens.
It will provide a black eye in the national and foreign media , scare off tourists(especially ones with children), distract worthwhile busineses from locaing here since they will be faced with not only more liability insurance but extra safety for their employees and put people at unease at their own place of worship.
This seems like something that would be done in the Gaza Strip or the Mideast.
It is stupid and based upon emotion and tries to fix a problem that does not exist.
It is being passed to placate some guns nuts and the NRA.
Beebe needs to veto this.

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BillyJonesBluez says... February 4, 2013 at 4:27 p.m.

The true problem seems to me to be a gun loving culture that is not addressing the spiritual needs of our children, and trying to shoot our way out the situation.
Violence is the tool of the ignorant. ...we are shooting ourselves in the foot. (pun intended)

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gwen9 says... February 4, 2013 at 4:53 p.m.

Mr. BJ Bluez,
The spiritual needs of the children can only be addressed when they have a safe environment to address them! I don't argue the fact that "violence is the tool of the ignorant" in some cases.....but try telling that to the criminal that comes to your church! This law also allows the church staff that is there 7 days a week to protect themselves as they go in and out of their buildings.

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restoresanity says... February 4, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.

agree with Jack Abbott, pray gun and abortions away inside your churches..Belief is reliance, not defiance. God is watching, and has no favorites, so the Bible Belt says...children deserve to be safe everywhere, homes, schools, and place of worship. So teach by your example. World peace beings with the man in the mirror

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ythpstr says... February 4, 2013 at 6:36 p.m.

Some of these comments are absurd. Were talking about people that work with you, shop with you, live down the street from you, all the while carrying a firearm and you dont even know it. And now that one more place is open for them to protect themselves and those around them, some of you are up in arms. Despite that they took classes to get a concealed carry. Despite that they qualified at a gun range. And despite that they had fingerprints taken and passed background checks from the state and the FBI. Face the facts and drop your political agenda. Since 1950 every shooting in public involving three or more deaths happened in places that it was illegal for a licensed person to carry, except for one case. You ARE safer because of CCW even if you dont have a CCW yourself. This will now include at church.
BillyJonesBluez, weekly I stand before people addressing spiritual needs. That doesnt erase all these; tinyurl.
Jackabbott, Of the 49 states with some form of concealed carry, the majority have no restrictions on carrying at church. In fact Arkansas is one of only 10 that prohibit it. Your belief that somehow we will be looked at badly is in fact unfounded, since the rest of the 39 are looking at us in the minority and wondering what were thinking, given the above link I shared. And the fact is that there is a very strong case coming out of one of those other 9 that is challenging the constitutionality of these provisions in the concealed carry laws. There is NO general provision concerning malls. NO general provision for department stores. NO general provision for convenient stores. Yet theres one on churches? So the government is more absorbed into what private people do in a private building simply because its a house of worship? These laws will NOT stand against the separation of church and state. But no fear, being that this IS private property take your concern to the pastors, the elders, or whatever governing body is at your church, and with one sticker at the entrances or sign at the entry to the parking lot, no person having passed background checks and going through training will have his firearm on him when he enters your church. Plus, any madman wanting to get his name on the news at the hands of unarmed victims will know your church is there. And he would be wise to go to your church and not mine. Headlines if he came to my church might read "Gunman on rampage enters a church. One dead, including the gunman"

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