Last week it was Sutherland Springs, Texas; in September, Antioch, Tenn.; two years ago, Charleston, S.C. — all suffered high-profile shootings in churches. The high death toll in Texas especially, where gun ownership and concealed carry is widespread, highlights a serious problem.
Churches are frequent targets of gunmen, but churchgoers are uncomfortable carrying arms into places of worship. In September, church usher Caleb Engle made headlines for stopping a shooter in a church, but he had to use his bare hands, since he’d left his gun in the car. From 2006 to 2016, 147 shootings have taken place in churches. It’s time we take the advice of Texas attorney general Ken Paxton and ditch the idea that we should disarm for church.
The taboo against carrying weapons into church extends to America in our own day. Nine states and the District of Columbia have laws restricting the carrying of weapons in church, and Louisiana outright forbids it. Such laws only serve to make churches even more attractive targets to mass shooters.
Churches have always been targets of opportunity. Accordingly, early colonial regulations mandated the carrying of arms to church. “To prevent or withstand such sudden assaults as may be made . . . upon the Sabboth or lecture dayes, It is Ordered, that one person in every several howse wherein is any souldear or souldears, shall bring a musket, pystoll or some peece, with powder and shott to e[a]ch meeting.” Then, as now, it was recognized that the church, in its capacity as a place of peace and vulnerability, made it a prime target for attack. The response then, as it should be now, was to take appropriate precautions to protect parishioners.
Unreasoned backlash from the political Left notwithstanding, nothing about carrying a concealed weapon is contrary to a church environment. Do not let ideologues keep you from protecting yourself and your friends. Wherever you legally can, keep your weapon, keep it politely, and know that it is only a means of last resort. Force can stop force. If more people carried their weapons to church, fewer people might be killed in shootings. Churchgoers should think about their security from attack, and if they have no gun, perhaps they ought sell their cloak and buy one.
— Matthew Larosiere is a legal associate at a think tank in Washington, D.C. He is a Young Voices Advocate and writes about guns and the law.