Mississippi Governor Signs Guns-In-Church Bill

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Gov. Bryant signs the state's new Guns-In-Church Bill. (Photo: Yahoo.com)

Gov. Bryant signs the state’s new Guns-In-Church Bill. (Photo: Yahoo.com)

Mississippi churches concerned about the possibility of an active shooter situation can now designate members to carry concealed firearms into services, Yahoo News reports.

As part of Mississippi’s new constitutional carry bill, the Church Protection Act allows church members to undergo firearms training and provide armed protection for their congregations. The bill also provides legal protection for those members the church designates to carry firearms into services.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Andy Gipson, said the act is designed to allow small congregations a means of protection if they cannot afford to hire security guards. Gipson believes the bill is necessary in light of the massacre of nine parishioners during a Bible study last year in Charleston, South Carolina.

The bill was met with mixed reactions from Mississippi congregations, according to the Yahoo report.

Some pastors, like Greater Bethlehem Temple’s Ervin Ricks, lead congregations whose members are sensitive to inner-city gun violence. Pastor Ricks says he finds bullets lodged in the walls of his church about nine times a year, and many of his congregation have lost family members to gun wounds inflicted by criminals.

So, while Pastor Ricks’s church does not oppose gun ownership and many attendees hunt and shoot for sport, they leave security to surveillance cameras and off-duty police officers.

Unfortunately, not all churches can afford the same kind of protections as Ricks’s 1200-member congregation. Representative Gipson, for example, pastors an 80-member church in the Mississippi countryside 40 minutes southeast of Jackson. His is the kind of church the bill aims to protect.

“Melissa Sullivan, a member of Gipson’s Gum Springs Baptist Church, was carrying a gun during service one Sunday in late March,” according to the Yahoo report. “Most of the congregation carries guns most of the time, including the women, she said. She said she feels safe but isn’t naive enough to believe there isn’t a threat.”

“The bad guys are gonna have a way to get their point across,” she concluded. “We have to have a right to defend our family.”

Other pastors expressed disappointment that the law needed to be passed at all.

“It’s a sad day in America when we even have to think about taking a firearm to church to protect the people there,” said the Rev. Otis Moore, of Jackson First Church, according to WAPT News.

Despite his hesitation, Moore said he does support the new law.

Only two states — Georgia and North Dakota — prohibit all guns from places of worship, said Taylor Maxwell, a spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for gun control laws. Eight states prohibit concealed carry permit holders from carrying guns into places of worship; other states leave it up to the place of worship.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Jeremiah Glosenger April 24, 2016, 1:39 pm

    Taylor Maxwell from “Everytown for Gun Safety” is wrong about North Dakota. We allow churches to designate whom they would like to allow to carry in their congregations…and we did it before Mississippi.

  • Joe McHugh April 22, 2016, 4:18 pm

    I don’t see a problem for the church goers in Georgia and North Dakota. Suppose a crazy with a pistol, bursts in on one of their services, and begins shooting the trapped church members in the head. They can always pray for divine intervention. I mean, who can find fault with that?

  • loupgarous April 22, 2016, 3:18 pm

    I live in Mississippi. I actually was the informal guy who did security in my church for a short while, and I had to escort a drunk out of my church’s nave during the celebration of Mass (which I did unarmed except for outweighing the drunk by eighty pounds). I don’t know what I’d have done, had this man been armed. I hope I’d have hand the presence of mind to do what I would up doing, calmly inviting the man outside to discuss what our rector was too busy celebrating Mass at the time to discuss himself.

    I agree with the Reverend Moore that it’s a sad day when laws like this must be passed for congregations to be safe from intrusion and attack during worship. And like the Reverend Moore, I’m pleased and proud to live in a state which recognizes its duty to its church-going citizens this way, and makes laws which protect them in a positive manner, with safeguards for everyone concerned. It’s a rare case in which a state legislature enacted a gun control measure that is deliberative of the issues at stake, not blindly reactive to them.

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