One piece of legislation garnering national attention is H.B. 68 (PDF: 4 pgs) by Rep. Henry Burns (R-Bossier) which will allow guns in churches "if the pastor or head of the religious body approves." The bill has passed the House with by a vote of 74-18 and has been passed to the Senate where it currently has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.
Churches would be required to notify parishioners through bulletins, newsletters, or verbally that there is armed security in their congregation, reports this NOLA article last week.
Rep. Barbara Norton is, not surprisingly, totally against the bill:
"If God is looking down on us today I don't think he is happy with us discussing how we can carry our guns to church," Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, a major opponent of the bill, said. "The church is a place of peace. I don't think God said it was OK to carry a gun in the house of the Lord.
"Nowhere does it say (in Scripture) the Lord said you have to have a gun in church. If you need to have a gun in church, you need to go to another church."
MSNBC interviewed Rep. Norton who voiced concern those that have concealed permits may not have proper firearms in which Rep. Norton describes a frightful free for all scenario:
"...When I think about, uh, we have no metal detectors that that is required to be placed in churches. We don't know who is it may be sitting right next to us and a gun may go off and someone else thinks someone is shooting and then you have a lot of people pulling their guns. The other thing is we may live in areas where there are crimes but at the same time that's what we pay our policemens and our sheriffs and our marshalls to protect us. If we give everybody a gun and tell them to go and start doing protecting themselves and others then we're taking it out of the hands of the law."Video of Tamron Hall's interview is here.
Newsbusters plays devil's advocate with the Norton interview questioning why interviewer Tamron Hall didn't ask Rep. Norton about the 2007 Colorado incident in which an armed parishioner ended a shooting spree by an armed killer.
Church shootings have become more and more frequent. In February of this year two teenagers were shot at a Richmond, California church. In 2009 in Illinois a pastor was killed as he spoke to his congregation. He tried to use his Bible to shield him from the bullets. Two parishioners who tried to restrain the shooter were slashed with a four inch knife. In July, 2008 a shooter entered a Knoxville, TN church during a childrens performance of Annie and opened fire, killing two and injuring several others. And let's not forget about George Tiller who was killed last year as he entered his Wichita church.
Representative Burns does not require that churches have armed security. It does require that parishioners be informed if there is armed security present. From my perspective, I'd have some sense of security if I knew there was an armed police officer, or some other trained expert, in the congregation who could provide protection should the need arise.
For Representative Norton to assume that you are safe just because you are in church is to assume you are safe because you are locked in your home, because you're at school, or because you're at the mall.
Update: By the way, Rep. Norton says in that interview with MSNBC that in Louisiana you don't have to have training to get a concealed handgun permit; she's wrong. See the application here.