BATON ROUGE, La. (ABP) — Reversing an earlier vote, Louisiana's House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly May 12 in favor of a bill that would allow concealed handguns to be carried in church.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, says House Bill 68, approved by the House 74-18 and now headed for the state Senate, would permit houses of worship to establish a security plan using armed security guards.
"The message is not for everyone to take a gun to church, but that a church or religious facility that would 'want' to establish a plan, can utilize their parishioners who want to do that," Burns said in a recent interview with the Shreveport Times.
The proposed legislation would amend present law that prohibits carrying a concealed handgun in any church, synagogue, mosque or other similar place of worship. It would allow churches to create an exception if they desire to authorize any person issued a valid concealed handgun permit to carry a concealed handgun during worship.
It would require ministers to inform parishioners when someone has been authorized to carry a weapon and mandate eight hours of tactical training for anyone authorized to do so.
Opponents of the bill said Louisiana's churches should remain gun-free.
"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, said in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "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."
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.