NORTH CAROLINA, USA — North Carolina lawmakers are considering two separate bills - one in the House and another in the Senate - that would loosen gun laws in churches and other places of worship that also serve as private schools.
The gun rights legislation under consideration has sparked impassionate debate.
The proposed laws come as coronavirus restrictions gradually loosen with more people getting vaccinated, and an increasing number of students and worshipers return to in-person activities.
House Bill 134 and Senate Bill 43 would both allow people to conceal carry a handgun in a religious building that also houses a school, as long as they're armed outside school operating hours. HB 134 goes further to say that handguns are allowed if the educational program is affiliated with a religious institution.
As the law stands now, most North Carolina churches can allow concealed or open-carry weapons on site. However, state law bans weapons on school property, and many churches share their grounds with an affiliated private school.
Religious institutions can still prohibit gun owners from carrying concealed handguns and must put up a sign indicating this desire.
House Bill 134 also contains a section that loosen laws around concealed handgun permits that have lapsed. Another section would allow EMS workers to carry concealed weapons when providing medical assistance to SWAT teams.
You can read the bills for yourself here:
The Senate bill passed 31-18, and is now in the House where it's been referred to a committee as of March 2.
On March 11, the House bill passed 72-44 and is working its way through the senate, referred to a committee on March 15.
Religious groups spar over guns in churches
The Christian Action League of North Carolina has expressed its support of the gun rights legislation. Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, spoke about the bills in an article on the organization's website.
“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.”
But other religious organizations hold the opposite opinion. The N.C. Council of Churches stands with North Carolinians Against Gun Violence (NCGV) legislative agenda, and the group has expressed its opposition.
In a statement, NCGV said in part:
"A law allowing people to sometimes carry firearms at a place of worship is an inherently confusing message and an invitation to tragedy. For example, a worshipper might think that because they can legally carry their gun to Sunday services, then they could carry it to Wednesday night bible study when in fact there was an after school activity at the same time, making concealed carry illegal."
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