By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
June 10, 2021
Tuesday, North Carolina General Assembly passed S.B. 43 – Protect Religious Meeting Places and sent it to Governor Roy Cooper.
S.B. 43 would allow concealed carry of guns during worship services at churches where a private school is also housed. Currently, churches in these circumstances are not allowed concealed carry and prohibited from developing their own armed security teams. Concealed carry would only be allowed, and security teams could only operate on church property during non-school hours if the church opts in.
Although the House debate on the measure was long and lively last week, there was no debate in the Senate.
Governor Cooper vetoed a similar bill last year, saying, “This bill allows guns on school property, which threatens the safety of students and teachers.”
But Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, says he hopes the Governor will take a closer look at the proposal this year.
“I think the bill is quite reasonable. Our churches are simply asking for the same rights other churches in North Carolina already have the freedom to exercise. The Governor’s expressed concerns about this kind of proposal have been respected and addressed. It is quite cost-prohibitive for many of these churches associated with private schools to afford to hire off-duty police officers. Without this legislation, these churches are vulnerable to some crazed soul who might walk in and want to start shooting. The threat is real and urgent,” said Creech.
Several pastors attended committee hearings on S.B. 43 and testified in favor of the bill.
The Rev. Matt Morrison of Gospel Light Baptist in Walkertown said his church is in the process of training about 25 men to serve on a future safety team if legislation is ever approved.
“We are being trained by a former U.S. marshal who was appointed by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office to assist churches in establishing well-trained response teams. It is an in-depth protracted series of sessions,” Morrison said. “What I am saying is our churches will take the necessary steps to ensure responsibility and accountability. We strongly believe we have a moral obligation to offer a ready response to an active shooter situation through the means of armed first responders.”
The Rev. Ron Baity, pastor of Berean Baptist in Winston-Salem, said data shows it takes law enforcement in his area between 10 and 14 minutes on average to respond to a 911 call.
“If a gunman is in our church and he is pulling the trigger and he is reloading in ten minutes, if we don’t take him out, if we are not able to stop him, he can take out most of our congregation,” Baity said. “He can kill multitudes of people. And it’s just not fair to us as a church not to be able to protect the people who are worshippers in our church. They come there believing they are going to be safe when they arrive, and it is against the law for us to protect them.”
Baity said it is bad enough that the church cannot legally protect its school children with an armed civilian force during the week, but even worse, it is penalized on Sundays because of having the school on Monday through Friday.
“We believe the current law as it stands in our state literally infringes on our Second Amendment right, and it punishes law-abiding citizens,” Baity said.
Creech added that he hopes concerned citizen Christians in the Tar Heel state “would now earnestly pray for the Governor to sign this bill or at least allow it to become law without his signature.”
“These churches aren’t asking for a lot,” said Creech. “They’re just looking for the same rights as other churches. They need to be able to protect themselves legally. At the moment, these congregations are sitting ducks.”