Two Maryland lawmakers have drafted a new bill that would allow parishioners to carry firearms without a concealed carry permit, TheBlaze reported. Maryland State Delegate Kathy Szeliga (R) and the late State Senator Wayne Norman (R) specified that no church would be forced to take advantage of the provision, adding that any church member seeking to bring a firearm to worship would need to first get permission from church officials.
The bill has gained support from Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, who recently revealed that he personally called Szeliga and Norman and asked if he could sponsor it.
“The police cannot be everywhere, and this proposed legislation grew out of the faith-based community reaching out to us,” Gahler explained in a press conference on the bill last December, as reported by the Baltimore Sun.
He clarified that the new bill would not prevent churches that do not want their congregants carrying weapons into the building from enforcing that rule upon their flock.
“This is again enabling legislation that would let the churches put their rules, regulations, policies and procedures training requirements, whatever they deem as a business owner can,” Gahler continued.
Maryland law currently allows parishioners to bring firearms to church under the condition that they possess a concealed carry permit.
Gahler and Szeliga said that the motivation behind the new bill was in response to the brutal shooting in Sutherland Springs and before that at a church in South Carolina.
“I don’t want to wait until we have that happen in Maryland,” Szeliga told WJZ-TV in Baltimore. “What are we going to say when we have a church in Harford County that experiences what happened in Texas and we didn’t take our opportunity to allow our congregations to be safe?”
“Can you think of anything more egregious than being in the house of the Lord and someone coming in with ill intent?” the sheriff asked.
“We’ve seen the attacks far too frequently in our country, and the leaders standing behind me are here to push for change in Maryland, change that will allow our houses of worship to be protected,” Erik Robey, director of legislative and community affairs for the Sheriff’s Office, said at the December press conference.
Sheriff Gahler did, however, issue a stark warning for anyone who brings a weapon onto church property:
“People who want to carry certainly need to be aware — as every police officer in our country has to be — they’re responsible for their rounds, they’re responsible for the decisions they make, they’re responsible to be responsible gun owners, and they’re held accountable for the decisions they make,” he said.
The Rev. Tommy Allen of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Abingdon truly believes that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to put a good guy in his way.
“The best way to check a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, who is adequately trained to assess and address a potentially violent situation,” Allen said, lamenting the necessity for such a conversation on church security.
“This is not where I’d want to be, but this is where we are,” he said.