News and Views

Concealed carry in church? Bishop addresses proposed Maryland law

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As the Maryland General Assembly continues its work this year, one proposal would create a pilot program in Harford County allowing parishioners to bring concealed weapons into church.

The so-called “Parishioner Protection Act,” HB 758, states that “A person who has the written consent of the Governing Board of a bona fide church or religious organization to carry a handgun on the property of the church or religious organization during services and gatherings … may, without a permit, 1) Carry a handgun on the property of the church or religious organization during services and gatherings; and 2) transport a handgun to and from services and gatherings of the church or religious organization.”

An amendment to HB758 would allow this new law to be in effect only in Harford County before possible state-wide implementation.

Bishop LaTrelle Eastering, episcopal leader of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, spoke about guns in church during her visits to each of the eight districts in the conference last fall.

“As I have said during my talks on the districts, I am opposed to civilians being armed with guns and asked to become first responders in complex situations,” said Bishop Easterling. “If those who have spent time in academies, simulated training exercises and firearms classes make mistakes in emotionally charged, split-second decisions, how do we expect civilian personnel to handle the stress and chaos of the moment? Life and death decisions are made in these instances, and I believe it to be unreasonable and unfair to ask our educators and parishioners to assume that responsibility.

The bishop said that the cause of gun violence, in schools, churches and elsewhere, is multi-layered and complex.

“We are never well served by creating quick solutions to complex problems,” Bishop Easterling said. “I am not opposed to businesses, schools, or churches hiring law enforcement personnel to protect their constituents, but I am squarely opposed to asking teachers, pastors, and members to carry that responsibility. Their focus should be elsewhere during times of education and worship. Arming them is not the answer.”

To contact your Maryland General Assembly lawmaker, visit http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frm1st.aspx?tab=home

READ A RESPONSE to Bishop Easterling from Ronald E. David, March 12, 2018.

 

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