Guns-in-Church Bill Clears House; Beebe Signature Expected
Gov. Mike Beebe is expected to sign a bill headed soon to his desk that would allow churches to decide whether concealed-carry permit holders can carry handguns inside, the governor’s spokesman said.
“The governor does plan to sign it,” Matt DeCample said of Senate Bill 71 on Monday (Feb. 4).
On an 85-8 vote, the Republican-controlled House on Monday approved the bill, which had already cleared the Senate, also under GOP control. Beebe is a Democrat.
The Senate vote, on Jan. 28, was 28-4.
Before the bill goes to the governor, the Senate must first concur with a minor House amendment that added co-sponsors to the measure, said the sponsor, Sen. Bryan King, R-Green Forest. That procedural step, set to occur Tuesday (Feb. 5), is expected to happen without any difficulties.
Dubbed the Church Protection Act of 2013, the bill would allow officials at a church or other place of worship to determine who can carry a concealed handgun inside. A church has the option to opt out.
DeCample said bills usually take a day or two to reach the governor’s desk after winning legislative approval. After that, the governor has five days to sign a bill, DeCample said.
DeCample said it is possible SB71 could be signed later this week. The measure becomes law immediately upon the governor’s signature.
DeCample said the governor might work with lawmakers in introducing separate legislation addressing concerns some pastors raised about insurance liability and other issues on implementing the law, such as signs at individual churches stating whether weapons are allowed inside.