Should You Bring Your Guns to Church?

I voted against  a bill to allow clergy to carry firearms while conducting church services about 9 months ago.

My reason?

The bill gave me the creeps.

I know that sounds like a poor way to make a decision about legislation, and I have to admit it wasn’t one of the most deeply-considered votes I’ve cast, but the bill took me by surprise. I was unaware of it until the Floor Leader introduced the author so he could bring it up for a vote on the House floor.

You have to make decisions in that ready-set-vote fashion a lot of the time. Those are the times when it’s not good to try to over-think in a rush. Quickie analysis is often stupid analysis. I’ve found that my first impulse may not be always the one I would chose after I think it over, but it more often is than not. So, when I’m pushed, I go with what my gut and my considerable legislative experience tell me.

I voted against the bill for the simple reason that the idea of preachers packing heat during church services gave me the creeps.

It appears that this bill was the harbinger of things to come. A number of states have introduced and passed legislation that allows parishioners to bring their guns to church, and the number appears to be growing. Proponents of these measures say that 70 people were “violently killed on faith-based property” during church services last year.

I have no idea if they were killed by crazies bursting into churches and shooting people or by rapist/murderers breaking in and attacking church secretaries or what. That information would make  a difference in how I vote on these things in the future.

To be honest, I’m not sure what I think about all these ideas except to say that they are treating the symptom and not the disease. The reason for the senseless violence we are seeing lies, not in inanimate objects, but in ourselves.

I never thought about these things until the Oklahoma City Bombing, but I’ve thought about them quite a lot since then. I still don’t have any quick-fix, short-term solutions for what we are experiencing at the hands of these violent young men. However, I do think the long-term solution is much harder than we want to admit and that this is part of the reason why we reach out for quick fixes involving weapons instead of  more long-term solutions that deal with the people who weld them.

A Baptist Press article about the pistol-packin’ congregants say in part:

NASHVILLE (BP) — As gun control takes high priority on Capitol Hill, state legislatures increasingly are allowing concealed guns in our most sacred place, the church, either for personal protection or for worshippers designated as church security personnel.

Arkansas, on Feb. 4, became the eighth state to pass legislation allowing concealed guns specifically in churches. In a lopsided bipartisan vote, state legislators voted to allow each church to decide whether individuals with concealed carry permits could take guns in church for personal protection.

“A person should be allowed to carry a firearm in a church that permits the carrying of a firearm for personal security,” the Arkansas Church Protection Act reads, deeming such an option “immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, and safety” because “personal security is increasingly important.”

Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming also have laws allowing concealed guns specifically in churches, with varied stipulations, including the possession of a proper permit, training, church approval and congregational awareness, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Additionally, about 20 other states allow guns in churches because of “right to carry” laws, but have not specifically focused on churches in legislation. (Read more here.)

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  • KatieK

    Improperly titled; this article is actually concerning “Should You Be Allowed to Bring Your Guns to Church?” which is a discussion of freedom vs state control. The author chose control in lieu of allowing citizens (specifically the leader of a congregation) their natural rights of self-defense. Any place where a large number of people gather can become a target for a would-be mass-murderer & churches are no exception to this (for example, the Sikh temple massacre last year) especially when you consider that a state with such no-carry zones guarantees scores of unarmed potential victims. Now, whether one SHOULD carry to church is an entirely different discussion, but I disagree with the decision to prevent people from having that choice.

    • Kristen inDallas

      It IS the people’s choice though. In essence that’s why we vote and why people like Rebecca are elected to make desicions like that. When you’re talking about public spaces, it’s not just one person’s decision or rights that count, it’s everyone’s. I think most people are on board with the idea that schools should be no-carry zones, and not just because they are government property – the idea of allowing people to carry personal firearms at a private school sounds just as preposterous. I think the idea is that most people involved in a community would prefer to be attacked from “beyond the walls” so to speak in order to ensure that we retain a few places where we prevent violence from erupting from within. Schools and churches fit that bill. It’s not so much about restricting someone’s rights (individuals can still own guns) as it is about protecting the right of a community to have gun-free community spaces. A church is a community space regulated by the people it serves within the bounds of religious freedom. It is not a place of business where the owner (or pastor) gets to call all the shots (admitedly there are some churches that act like businesses, but until the property gets reclassified and they get a business licence, tough nuggies).

      • neenergyobserver

        I follow your point but, do not grant your premise. The right to self defense-which goes back far into the Old Testament- does not stop at the door of the church or school. It’s not about the right to own guns-it’s about the right of free men (and women) to defend themselves. The Temple was not posted as a sword free zone, nor was any medieval knight prevented from wearing his sword to church-indeed he would have felt half-dressed without that mark of the gentlemen.

        If you want your property to be gun free, that is fine, it is your property, one of the banks I use decided to be as well, also fine, although I will no longer deal with them-I see no reason to frequent a marked target zone. Same rule for churches which are not public property, it’s up to the congregation, bishops, whoever sets the rules in that organization, much as I admire Rebecca and others like her, it is not any of the governments business.

  • Manny

    I agree with your vote. Just as I’m opposed to women in combat, I don’t think clergy should be armed in a house of God. It’s just not appropriate.

    It’s not that women can’t do combat, but that women represent the nurturing side of humanity, and combat is incoherent, disconnected, and inconsistent with roles needed for social equilibrium. Clergy represent the pastoring role of society, and giving them guns is just as incoherent, disconnected, and inconsistent. It would be cognitive dissonance.

  • neenergyobserver

    I can easily understand your queasiness with this issue. I have no problem with anyone (properly trained, that is) carrying, anywhere but, it is a little creepy to specifically authorize pastors, priests, whatever to carry in church. It seems a bit strange for the shepherd to wield the sword, although I’m not entirely sure why. There were after all two swords in the upper room, and apparently St. Peter knew something about self defense, although he could have used more training , maybe.

  • Bill S

    “… but I disagree with the decision to prevent people from having that choice.”

    I’m against guns altogether. So when I hear this statement when it refers to something I’m against and I think should be outlawed, all of a sudden, I am not so “pro-choice” about it.

    I am still pro-choice about abortion but that doesn’t sound as noble as it once did. I understand a little bit better how pro-lifers might try to justify taking that choice away.

  • Rev. Katherine Marple

    I have to disagree. Two points: First, a Pastor in Western Illinois (very close to STL) was gunned down during a church service, unprovoked…someone just walked in and shot him dead [,2933,506820,00.html]. Secondly, and this should be obvious, is when George Tiller was shot dead in his church…..NOW, while I do believe that Tiller deserves a burning hell, it was not up to anyone else to help him get there. Churches are sitting ducks; we don’t want to lock the doors to a hurting person that needs to be there but we have to protect ourselves when we are in the pulpit and in the pew. I know a Pastor here that teaches concealed carry classes so that we can protect ourselves, if needed.

  • pagansister

    NO problem with women in combat, but somehow, a church is no place for guns.

  • Ted Seeber

    Guns in Church doesn’t make sense to me. Guns in cities doesn’t make sense to me.

    Guns in the woods or on a lonely farm DOES make sense to me.

    One other option that seems quite rational to me, is non-lethal (but still very painful) ammo being made available in the cities, free to anybody willing to train with the police on the proper use of it.

    Few things can stop a burglar as well as a simple rock salt load in a 12 gauge shotgun.