Left Hand, Meet Right Hand (Editorial)

The Church Protection Act of 2013 has been delivered to Gov. Mike Beebe for the signature that he says he will execute, so churches and other places of worship in Arkansas will in the future be free to allow persons licensed to carry concealed weapons to pack heat in the pews.

This is probably as it should be (although the idea that passing this particular bill was an emergency seems a bit overwrought). Religious congregations, being voluntary assemblies, tend to be made up of like-minded folks. And heaven knows that Arkansans — especially the overwhelming Christian population — have plenty of choices when it comes to church attendance. If one congregation’s decision about allowing or disallowing firearms doesn’t suit you, you can certainly find another place to worship.

We’re not so amenable to Senate Bill 131, which would amend the Freedom of Information Act to make the identity of concealed-carry licensees a state secret. Already those identities are limited to name and ZIP code. This bill, which sailed through the Senate, would make it impossible for anyone to find out who is and, just as importantly, who is not licensed to carry a concealed weapon.

The FOI is used regularly by the news media, and this bill seems to be aimed at keeping concealed weapons carriers’ names out of the newspaper. But the FOI is also a tool for the general public. Church leaders, for instance, might want to determine which members are actually licensed to carry concealed weapons.

If SB 131 becomes law, neither church leaders nor family members nor neighbors nor anyone besides law enforcement officials will be able to find out whether a person who presents himself as having a concealed-carry license has actually submitted to the background check and training that the license requires.

Your barber’s name is public record. The names of concealed-carry licensees should remain public record as well.