Churches in Mississippi may soon have armed security guards at their doors

Posted April 4
Updated April 7

The Mississippi Senate passed a controversial gun law last week, which would allow guns to join Bibles and donations in the pile of what churchgoers bring to Sunday service.

"Under (House Bill 786), places of worship could designate members to undergo firearms training and carry guns to protect the congregation," the Associated Press reported.

Senators who supported the bill said the value of armed security teams became obvious after last summer's shooting in a Charleston, South Carolina, church. Nine members of Emanuel AME Church died after being attacked during a prayer meeting, as Time reported in June.

"The self-defense of these churches is a God-given right," said Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport, to the AP this week.

However, other senators called the bill a thinly veiled attempt to loosen gun laws, noting that HB786 goes beyond church security teams to allow "people to carry guns in holsters without a state concealed-weapons permit," the AP reported.

"We don't need to pimp the church for political purposes," said Sen. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, to the AP. "If you want to pass a bill liberalizing gun laws, then do that. Don't use the church."

Support for gun rights and gun ownership varies widely between U.S. faith groups, and policy views might be based more on political affiliation than religious beliefs.

In a survey taken by Public Religion Research Institute soon after the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, 67 percent of Catholics and 57 percent of white mainline Protestants said they favor the passage of stricter gun control laws.

White evangelical Protestants, which comprise 28 percent of Mississippi's population, were the least supportive of gun control, with only 38 percent saying they'd be supportive of stricter measures, PRRI reported.

White evangelicals and white mainline Protestants are actually more likely than the average American to have a gun in their home, the study showed. Fifty-seven percent of white evangelicals and 55 percent of white mainline Protestants own guns, compared to 38 percent of all Americans.

Christian gun supporters present a variety of faith-based arguments to shore up their stance, as religion columnist Lisa Miller observed for The Washington Post in 2013. They sometimes argue that prayer, rather than gun control, is a solution for violence, or that self-defense and defending one's neighbors are biblical values, a view that resonates with Mississippi lawmakers who support HB 786.

After its success in the Senate last week, the bill was sent back to the House of Representatives for further work, according to the AP.

Email: Twitter: @kelsey_dallas


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