Maryland lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday to allow concealed carry on church properties to protect parishioners from repeats of the church shootings in Texas and South Carolina.
Maryland State Del. Kathy Szeliga introduced the Parishioner Protection Act in the 2018 legislative session in Annapolis and promoted it as a possible solution to mass shootings at churches, according to Fox5. The bill, which if passed will be implemented as a pilot program in Harford County, would allow parishioners to carry concealed handguns on church property with the written permission of their church leadership.
“Think about going into your own place of worship, your back is towards the door, your mind is on God and spiritual things. You are very vulnerable to an intruder that could come in from behind. So making sure people, especially in that worshipful place, are protected is important,” Szeliga said, according to Fox5.
The proposed legislation also garnered the support of Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, who said the impetus for the bill’s introduction was the interest of parishioners who requested training to prepare for the event of an active shooter at their respective churches.
“Many congregations, many pastors have reached out to the sheriff’s office looking for active shooter training,” Gahler said in December, according to Fallston Patch.
Gahler said that past crimes involving the use of guns at churches have proven that active shooter situations can happen at Maryland churches.
“It can certainly happen here,” Gahler said, according to Patch. “In 2006, we saw an armed robbery of a church congregation, and we know that some of the horrific things that can happen to a community can happen here.”
Gahler argued that allowing law-abiding parishioners to carry concealed weapons on church property would save lives in the long run. Not all churches are in accord with Gahler’s and Szeliga’s support for the legislation.
“Christians, at the core of our faith system, we are non-violent,” said Rev. Ken Phelps Jr. of All Saints’ Episcopal Church, according to Fox5. “Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount talks about an eye for an eye is what you may have heard, but I tell you you love your enemies. You return good for evil. You pray for those who hate you. We cannot normalize any violence as part of who we are.”