Anti-self-defense groups using church affiliations to deter legislators from allowing concealed carry in places of worship
While many improvements have been made to Ohio's concealed carry law since it was first passed in 2004, one of the most serious ones that still needs to be addressed is the many places which are forced to post "no-guns" signs alerting criminals that everyone inside is defenseless.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of multiple-victim public shootings occur in places where guns are banned, there are still persons who operate under the delusion that waiting five or ten minutes for a good guy with a gun to arrive to stop the killing is somehow better than having a good guy with a gun on hand when the killing starts.
Since abolishing victim zones is the main goal of House Bill 231, sponsored by Rep. Ron Maag, R-Lebanon, it was these delusional people who testified in opposition to the legislation on January 29.
HB 231 seeks, among other things, to return the decision of whether or not to allow concealed carry to private entities like day cares and places of worship. Government facilities and nonsecure areas of law-enforcement stations and airports would also be open to concealed carry. License-holders also could possess firearms in school zones, if they were left in the car.
Unfortunately, many anti-self-defense people are using their affiliations with pacifist church groups to prop up the notion that places of worship don't support changing the law. And unless leaders from the many churches who do support this right are willing to step up and speak to their legislators, the ruse just might work.
From the Columbus Dispatch's coverage of the hearing, entitled "Bill's foes question allowing guns in Ohio schools, churches."
Gary Eggert, a member of God Before Guns, told the legislative panel that a majority of Ohio churches do not want guns in their pews.
"It isn't rooted in the demands of churches, day-care facilities or academic institutions," Eggert said. "It's rooted in the interests of the gun industry."
While Ohio does permit the issuance of concealed handgun licenses (CHLs), the law prohibits CHL-holders from attending worship services (or even entering the building) while armed, unless they have received special permission from church/synagogue/mosque officials. And obtaining this permission is exceedingly hard to obtain once the officials consult their uninformed, liability-conscious attorneys and insurance agents, who seem to labor under the false impression that an accident by an armed citizen is more likely than a violent attack by a crazed madman.
If a churchgoer is caught violating the ban, the law calls for a license-holder to be arrested and charged with a felony of the fourth degree if they bring their firearm to church as a means of protection against such an attack. A conviction would earn her up to $5000 in fines and 18 months in prison.
How did it get this bad in the Buckeye State, where, once upon a time, state law encouraged citizens to bear arms at church services? As author David Kopel points out in his article "Is the Best Defense a Good Book?", churchgoers have the "pacifist-aggression of certain religious officials" to thank for their defenselessness. That's because when Congress was considering reforms of the federal Gun Control Act, the Presbyterian Church (USA), sent a representative to testify to the Senate against the reforms. The Church representative declared that his church "has resolved, in the context of gun control, that it is against the killing of anyone, anywhere for any reason."
Kopel also notes that The National Coalition to Ban Handguns (later renamed the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence) was, in effect, founded as a subsidiary of the Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. And, Kopel discovered, Methodist publications tell women that they have a duty to submit to a rapist, rather than endanger the rapist by shooting him.
The roots of Ohio's anti-gun alliances can also be traced to these same sort of religious groups.
I won't attempt to detail the strong Biblical support for bearing arms for self-defense here, but in addition to Kopel's article, I highly recommend the essay entitled "What Does the Bible Say About Gun Control?".
The trouble for the many churchgoers in Ohio who are decidedly not being represented by groups like "God Before Guns" is that, thus far, their church leadership have not chosen to attend a hearing and provide a voice for the many churches who do not support this pacifist, submit-to-the-rapist viewpoint.
In a Gongwer News Service's coverage of the hearing, the "God Before Guns" leader told committee members that while he some church leaders welcome guns, he doesn't believe there's substantial support from the faith community on this front.
Mr. Eggert added that the concern goes beyond the fear of a shooting, as the faith community doesn't encourage violence or its members to buy guns.
Also from Gongwer:
Reverend Kristine Eggert, of Disciples Christian Church in Cleveland Heights, stressed in written testimony that these facilities should remain a "safe haven."
"As a congregation, we are a combination of gun owners and those who do not own guns, but we agree that church is no place for a weapon," she wrote. Ms. Eggert said her church is part of the multi-faith coalition God Before Guns, which believes guns have no place in their respective places of worship.
...Ohio Council of Churches Public Policy Director Tom Smith said in written testimony that places of worship shouldn't be put in a position of "having to place that ugly sign created by the state on the front of their church to avoid having visitors carry their handguns into their sanctuary."
He asked why the legislature would want to "upset" the faith community when only few would benefit under the proposed changed.
Rev. John Elder, the former pastor of the First Church in Oberlin, said the proposed bill would "compensate for the negligence of gun carriers by making the areas it has tried to make safer for the general public instead safer for careless gun carriers."
Should these people be allowed to speak for the entire "faith community" on this issue? Unless church leaders who disagree decide to speak out, they will be.
Does your place of worship allow concealed carry? Would your church leaders be willing to testify on behalf of this important legislation? If no one who disagrees with them is willing to step up, then they are allowing these anti-self-defense people to be the voice for all people of faith.
There will be another hearing on HB 231 soon. Please take the time to discuss this matter with your church leaders. If they are willing to speak up on behalf of the many places of worship who do care about protecting their flock, please have them contact Jim Irvine ([email protected]) for help in preparing and coordinating their testimony.
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, and BFA PAC Vice Chairman.