Churches and guns do not seem a fitting combination. A place of worship? And a weapon? Sacrilegious, right? Not in Texas, thankfully.
While churches and guns do not seem to fit, the reality is they do — legally — in Texas.
The recent mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs — the worst mass shooting in Lone Star State history — has put the focus (once again) on gun control.
And since churches (along with schools) are often targets for evil and insane acts of violence, it needs to be pointed out that churches in Texas have had the ability to protect their members — with guns — for quite some time.
State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, is credited for spearheading a bill allowing places of worship (for example, churches) to have armed volunteer guards. The bill became a state law that took effect in September.
According to the Texas Legislature website, there were similar bills in the 85th Legislature, one authored by state Rep. Four Price, R-Amarillo (HB 981). HB 421 was authored by Rinaldi and had several co-authors, including state Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo.
Previously, a member of a religious entity could carry a firearm to a worship service, provided this person was licensed to carry a gun by the state of Texas. However, these individuals could not serve as security. Rinaldi’s bill changed that as of September.
Those who attend larger churches in Amarillo have no doubt seen members of Amarillo Police Department on church grounds during services. However, smaller churches may not have the resources to compensate law enforcement personnel to provide security during their services.
So where does this leave such churches? Rinaldi’s bill addresses this problem.
Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School, offered a different perspective recently in Los Angeles Times: “The desire to bring guns to churches is not about rights, but about risk. You have the right to carry a gun. But should you? If the main reason you’re holstering up in the morning is because it’s a family tradition where you live, or because you have a particular need to do so, or merely because you feel better with a gun, that is your right. But if you are doing so because you think you’re in danger from the next mass shooting, then you should ask yourself whether you’re nearly as capable, trained and judicious as you think you are — and why you are spending your days, including your day of worship — obsessing over one of the least likely things that could happen to you.”
In Texas, those who want to carry a gun legally must be licensed by the state, and complete the review process to be licensed. This license allows Texans to protect themselves — and others — by legally carrying a firearm.
If the state determines a person is capable and responsible enough to carry a gun, why should this right cease to exist at the church door? And if a church — or any place of worship — has members licensed by the state to carry a gun, the church should be able to extend this right to protect its members.