By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
March 18, 2021
In recent weeks, the Christian Action League has been reporting on SB 43 – Protect Religious Meeting Places, a bill that has already won the Senate’s approval. The legislation carves out an exemption for churches that share a property with a school to allow concealed carry and form security teams to protect their worship services. Currently, churches that also have a school as a part of their property are denied this right in North Carolina law.
Last week, the North Carolina House took up another measure, HB 134 – 2nd Amendment Protection Act, which deals with concealed handgun permit lapse, concealed carry for certain law enforcement facility employees and concealed carry for certain emergency medical services personnel. But the bill also contains a provision with similar language as SB 43, which allows for concealed carry on educational property that is the location of both a school and a place of religious worship under the following conditions:
- The educational property must be a non-public school.
- The handgun is only possessed and carried on educational property outside of school operating hours. A school’s operating hours would be defined as any time whenever,
- The premises are being used for curricular or extracurricular activities.
- The premises are being used for educational, instructional, or school-sponsored activities.
- The premises are being used for programs for minors by entities not affiliated with the religious institution.
- The person(s) in legal possession or control of the premises has not posted a notice prohibiting carrying a concealed handgun on the premises.
The debate from the House floor on the measure was spirited and interesting, to say the least.
Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham) was the first to rise in opposition to the provision allowing handguns at churches that also share their property with schools.
Morey noted a letter which lawmakers had received from the North Carolina Council of Churches in which 132 religious leaders signed saying:
“Leaning on the teachings of our faith traditions and relying on evidence, we affirm that guns do not make us safe. They should not be present in our schools and sanctuaries.”
Rep. Larry Pittman (R-Cabarrus) rose to counter Morey’s contentions and said that as a Presbyterian congregation’s pastor, he utilizes concealed carry every Sunday because the Elders of his church allow it. His church doesn’t have a school, but if it did, Pittman said, “it would be the same.”
“We still have the right,” said Pittman. “The question is whether we are going to recognize that right by passing this law. A right does not come from this body. It is merely recognition or denial of a right that already exists. I think we need to recognize that people have this right and allow them to do it.”
Pittman also added, “And I’m sorry, but as a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching, minister of the Gospel, I have to say that any statement that comes from the North Carolina Council of Churches is discredited by its source.”
Rep. Terry Garrison (D-Vance) who also stood in opposition to the provision said that he had planned not to say anything during the debate, but his conscience wouldn’t allow him.
“Seems like we talk about everything in this bill except the one who matters most,” said Garrison. “I would just say that if your faith is greater in a gun than in God, so be it. If you are not willing to go into the house of the Lord and have faith he will protect you, well, okay, fine, you have that right. But that is not where I stand as a Christian.”
Garrison’s statement caused some legislators to take his concerns personally, as if to argue their faith was lacking because they supported such a provision in law.
But Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort), a strong advocate of gun rights, countered that his faith in God was unshakeable. “But God gives me the right – as a matter of fact, God gives me the responsibility – to protect my family and my loved ones,” he said.
Pittman also rose a second time and said, “I don’t believe that being armed doesn’t mean that you’re not trusting the Lord. You can trust Him to guide your aim.”
Numerous other Republicans also stood to counter Garrison’s remarks, but perhaps the most eloquent was Rep. Dean Arp (R-Union), who said:
“One night in 2015, evil entered a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and killed nine people. Evil! That young man was sentenced to death, Dylan Roof. I certainly leave it up to you as to whether or not your faith allows you to carry a gun. But for me, that is not a bellwether of your Christian faith. That’s personal. It is undeniable that evil has attacked our churches…We have had real instances, not of accidental discharges and wild west shootouts or inappropriate guns being found by kids [all of these are claims of the letter from the NC Council of Churches]. What we actually see in the news is evil coming in and attacking people of faith – because of their faith!… Please don’t accuse me of not being a Christian because I see evil in the world and can do something to stop it.”
HB 134 passed the House by a 72-44 vote. Every Republican voted for the bill, and five Democrats joined Republicans in support.
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said there are now two bills, one residing in each chamber that would allow churches whose facilities also include a school to have concealed carry and security teams.
“I think the probability of passage of either of these bills is quite high,” said Creech. “The question is whether the Governor will sign the measure. He should, and I earnestly pray that he will.”