A woman prays outside of the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 12, 2017, a week after a man opened fire inside the church. Hundreds of people gathered in the tiny town for a Sunday service at a tent erected in a baseball field. (AP Photo/Eric Gay; caption amended by RNS)

Virginia Senate passes bill to allow guns in churches

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Senate has passed legislation aimed at allowing guns in church in response to a deadly church shooting in Texas.

The Republican-controlled chamber voted along party lines Tuesday (Jan. 23) to approve the measure, which would repeal a state law prohibiting weapons in a place of worship during a religious service. The state House still has to consider the bill, which Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam opposes and has indicated he would veto.


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Supporters say Virginia's prohibition on carrying a "gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger" or other dangerous weapons into churches during worship service is an archaic remnant of the state's "blue laws" enacted in the 1800s to prohibit certain activities on Sundays.

A state attorney general's opinion from 2011 says current law already allows Virginians to carry guns in churches, subject to a church's permission. But GOP Sen. Ben Chafin, the bill's sponsor, said the Legislature needed to clarify and cement the right to carry a gun in church into law if a church allows it.

"It's a private property rights issue," said Chafin.

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Much of the debate on the bill focused on last year's church shooting in Texas, when a gunman opened fire during a Sunday service at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs and killed more than two dozen worshippers.

"In the communities that I represent, there are a whole lot of first Baptist churches," Chafin said.

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Democratic Sen. Jeremy McPike said the Republican bill was too broad and there were better ways of letting houses of worship decide their own weapons policies.

"Those who are voting for this measure are voting for guns over God," McPike said.

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His legislation requiring that individuals carrying guns in churches have "express authorization" from the church to do so was blocked earlier this year by a GOP-controlled committee.

Comments

  1. Carrying guns in church, like lightning rods on church steeples shows a surprising lack of faith.

  2. It was probably a secular person who created that “rule”.

  3. Good. That should stop a number of people from going to church.

  4. People feeling more secure if they have guns in church is one of the best demonstrations of “the power of prayer” being a fantasy or a fraud.

  5. Mass shooters usually plan to die in the course of their attacks, so they’re not going to be deterred by armed churchgoers. They also usually carry automatic or semi-automatic weapons, which means that by the time any would-be hero has figured out what’s going on, drawn his weapon and taken aim, the damage has likely been done.

    Vigilantes firing willy nilly in an enclosed space are much more likely to increase the body count than reduce it.

  6. If you mean the rules were made by non-clergy, so what? Most are.

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