For some, the very idea of carrying a loaded, concealed firearm into a church seems outrageous. Isn’t a church supposed to be a house of God? A place of prayer? A refuge of peace?
Yes, yes and yes. And, yes, there is good and sufficient reason to carry concealed in a church.
Churches are where people gather to worship, but the operative word in these circumstances is “people.” Being imperfect beings, sometimes people do bad things – violent things – even in churches. In just the years since the beginning of this century, there have been at least 16 serious acts of violence in churches, including shootings, stabbings and hostage-taking. This tally doesn’t even take into account violent acts at cemeteries during graveside services, schools associated with churches, church camps and other places affiliated with religious activities. Even as people worship God, the world intrudes.
Violence in churches is not limited to big cities; a rural church in Kentucky was the scene of a murder during the service in 2001. Incidents are not limited to gang-bangers “crashing” a funeral service as part of an on-going war (although that has happened); several incidents have included estranged spouses bent on some sort of fantasy of revenge or just garden-variety emotionally disturbed individuals. As is true out in the general world, violence can occur even in the sacred confines of a church at any time, without warning and without apparent reason.
Defense against sudden violence, and the willingness to take action (and responsibility) for countering such incidents, is why some people train for and obtain a concealed carry weapons (CCW) permit and go armed. Being prepared for the unexpected, and maintaining the mental discipline to deal with threatening situations, is part of the ethos of carrying a concealed firearm. Why should that be dropped simply because one “hopes” that this reality will not intrude into a church?
If you have a CCW license and attend a church, you have probably already considered the legality, ethics and practicality of carrying concealed while in church. It is worth reviewing some of the considerations that enter into the decision whether to do so.
1. If Not There, Then Why Anywhere?
The decision to bear arms, under the license of a CCW permit, presumes that you are prepared to protect yourself, your loved ones and the innocent against sudden threat or violence. It is an act of responsibility and morality to be willing to take this on. Does that responsibility end when you enter a church door?
2. Check the Laws
Every state has slightly different CCW laws regarding where and when a person can carry concealed. Check with the appropriate authorities – or a lawyer with experience in gun laws – in your state to find out under which circumstances you can carry concealed in church.
3. What Are the Rules of Your Church?
Even in states with CCW permits, some buildings ban firearms from their premises. Usually, the laws require a posted sign at the entrance stating that firearms are not allowed. Even so, you may want to inquire – discreetly – if your church has a rule against concealed carry. As a member of your church community, you should obey the wishes of your church – or, if you are unwilling to do so, find another place to worship.
4. Be Unobtrusive
Any experienced CCW permit holder who regularly carries has learned not to be too obvious about the fact that they’re carrying. Even in localities in which the gun culture is still accepted as a matter of course, there will always be a certain percentage of the population that will have the fan-tods at the idea that you’re carrying concealed. This is equally true in church. There is no need to ratchet up anyone’s discomfort level. For example, if you belong to a denomination in which kneeling at the altar rail is part of the liturgy, using a small of the back holster is probably not a good choice; consider a hollow-book or pouch option instead.
In the end, the choice is yours whether or not to carry concealed in church. If it’s of any benefit, the following conversation was overheard recently at a gun shop:
Customer: Last Sunday, my wife said to me, “Now, Bill, you’re not going to take that nasty old .45 to church again, are you?”
Owner: So, what did you do?
Customer: Well, I didn’t want to lie to the woman. So, I took my .44 Magnum instead.