LITTLE ROCK — Concealed handguns would be allowed in Arkansas polling places under a bill advanced Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee.

LITTLE ROCK — Concealed handguns would be allowed in Arkansas polling places under a bill advanced Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee.


The panel also endorsed bill to require the collection of a DNA sample from a person arrested for any felony offense.


House Bill 1432 by Rep. Jeff Wardlaw, D-Warren, would remove polling places from the list of places where possession of a firearm is prohibited. Polling sites located inside public buildings or other facilities that prohibit firearms would not be affected, however.


"What this one does is it allows it in a country store, where people go in and eat their dinner every day and carry their guns, on voting day they’re not allowed to do that. This bill will allow them to do that. It will also allow churches that allow concealed carry to allow it," Wardlaw told the committee.


Asked if some church congregations might opt out of allowing their facilities to be used as polling places if the bill is passed, Wardlaw said there might be a few and said they would have the option of posting signs prohibiting weapons.


Lindsey Baily, opposing the bill on behalf of the Association of Arkansas Counties, said some confusion could occur because polling sites are located in a variety of places, some of which would be affected by the bill and some of which would not.


"There is nothing in this bill that would indicate you can put up a sign and trump what Arkansas Code says you can carry," said Baily. "At the minimum this would cause confusion, it would cause anger in people who came to vote and carried, but when they got there were told not to."


Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Hindsville, said there should be no confusion as state allows the person who is in control of a property to post a notice prohibiting firearms.


"To me it sounds like you take an 8-by-10 sheet of paper and write ‘Handguns are prohibited’ and stick it on the door and you’re done," he said.


Rep. Eddie Armstrong, D-Little Rock, said he was concerned that in light of heightened racial tensions in recent years, passage of the bill could result in voter intimidation.


"I hate going there, but it’s the truth of matter and I think we’re going down a slippery slope with creating legislation like this," he said.


The bill goes to the House.


The Judiciary Committee also endorsed House Bill 1573 by Rep. Camille Bennett, D-Lonoke, which would require the collection of a DNA sample from a person arrested for any felony offense.


Currently, DNA samples are collected from a person arrested for capital murder, first-degree murder, rape, kidnapping, or first- or second-degree sexual assault.


The panel heard from Jayann Sepich, whose activities in New Mexico led to the passage of "Katie’s Law," mandating stronger requirements for DNA collection in New Mexico in 2007. The law was named for her daughter, Katie, who was raped and murdered in 2003.


"Since that went into effect in New Mexico, we’ve had 845 cases matched to arrestee DNA in New Mexico," Sepich said.


Jeff Rosenzweig, a Little Rock attorney, expressed concerns that the bill could result in unjustified arrests for the purpose of collecting DNA samples.


"If we allow DNA to be taken before any magistrate has any look see at the facts, what you’ll see, in our opinion, is a lot of people jacked up by the side of the road for no reason at all, to get their DNA, and the charges are dropped or they fall away a year later," he said.


The bill goes to the House.