FBI: Michigan jihadist chose church as target because it was a "no-guns" zone

(Image source: WDIV-TV)

Ohio law gives exact same assurance to would-be attackers

WDIV (NBC Detroit) reported recently that a Dearborn Heights resident who was arrested for his allegiance to ISIS told an undercover FBI agent he had decided to target a church specifically because "people are not allowed to carry guns in church."

From the article:

Khalil Abu-Rayyan, 21, was being watched by the feds since May 2015.

He was even having online conversations with an undercover FBI agent.

“I tried to shoot up a church one day,” Abu-Rayyan posted. “It’s one of the biggest ones in Detroit. I had it planned out. I bought a bunch of bullets. I practiced reloading and unloading.”

The article explains that the FBI had been monitoring Abu-Rayyan's Twitter activity for some time, after it was discovered he had been retweeting, liking and commenting on ISIS propaganda.

Again, from the article:

In conversation's between Abu-Rayyan and the undercover agent, Abu-Rayyan described his desire to commit a martyrdom operation.


The complaint quotes Abu-Rayyan saying:

“It's easy, and a lot of people go there. Plus people are not allowed to carry guns in church. Plus it would make the news. Everybody would've heard. Honestly I regret not doing it. If I can't do jihad in the Middle East, I would do my jihad over here."


The complaint also says that he told the agent he had armed himself with a large knife and would behead people if he needed to.

“It is my dream to behead someone,” he told the agent.

And there you have it: an ISIS sympathizer plotting to intentionally target a church because it is a state-mandated "no-guns" zone full of defenseless people.

The issue of security in places of worship has been near and dear to my heart for as long as Ohio's concealed carry law has been in place. That's because, whereas all other private property owners in the State of Ohio must choose if they want to ban legal concealed carry on their property, when it comes to places of worship and day-care centers, legislators in Ohio and Michigan chose for them. (Apparently the myth known as a First Amendment separation of church and state only applies when they want it to.)

In Ohio, if a church member with a concealed handgun license brings their firearm to church as a means of protection against attack, the law calls for her to be arrested and charged with a felony of the fourth degree, and a conviction would earn her up to $5000 in fines and 18 months in prison. A similar ban exists in Michigan. Meanwhile, worshippers in our neighboring states of Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania labor under no such restrictions to their First and Second Amendment liberties. (Apparently equal protection under the law also only applies when the powers-that-be want it to.)

Those who are more familiar with Ohio law are probably already preparing their emails to me, wishing to remind me that both the Buckeye State and the Great Lakes State offer an exception to the ban on concealed carry in places of worship for those who are able to obtain permission from the proper church/synagogue/mosque authority. But the vast majority of people I know who have attempted to obtain this permission over the years have been refused.

These denials can come for a variety of reasons, including theological ones. I'm quite familiar with that line of thinking, having been raised in a Mennonite church, and with pacifism being one of the cornerstones of that denomination.

As I grew into my Christian faith as a young adult, I carefully studied this issue, and came to believe there is strong Biblical support for bearing arms for self-defense. (For more in this subject, I recommend firearms researcher Dave Kopel's "Is the Best Defense a Good Book?" as well as the online publication entitled "The Bible and Gun Control", and more specifically Essay 2, entitled "The Bible and Guns in America". For a good book on the subject, I recommend, "Evil Invades Sanctuary: The Case for Security in Faith-Based Organizations" by Carl Chinn and "To Keep or Not to Keep" - Why Christians Should not Give Up their Guns" by Timothy Baldwin, J.D. & Charles O. "Chuck" Baldwin, D.D.

In places where theology is not a part of the equation, I've found that many have received denials because their church leaders are laboring under the mistaken impression that their insurance rates will go up. I put that myth to rest in a piece I published in 2014, entitled "CCW in places of worship? No more 'our insurance guy says no' excuse."

At the end of the day, though, the problem lies with the Ohio (and Michigan) legislatures.

Republicans - who love to campaign on their pro-gun rights virtues - have been in charge of the entire Ohio General Assembly for ten of the past twelve years since concealed carry became law in Ohio. Bills have been introduced in several sessions to remove places of worship from the list of "no-guns" victim zones, but the bills have not been allowed hearings or a vote.

Early last year, Rep. Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) introduced HB 48, which sought to remove places of worship from the list of "no-guns" victim zones. Before it was allowed a floor vote, however, the Republican-led House State Government committee adopted substitute language which stripped the fix for places of worship from the bill.

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?[1]

Will it take a church massacre in Ohio before the Republicans controlling the General Assembly do anything about it?

Our ancestors viewed guns in Ohio churches in a MUCH different light.

(Painting by George Henry Boughton (1833-1905), entitled "Pilgrims Going To Church" - note all the guns they're taking with them)

On July 25, 1788, the first Ohio law to establish and regulate a militia was published. It mandated all men between 16 and 50 perform military duty. They were required to arm themselves with a musket and bayonet, a cartridge box, powder horn, one pound of powder and four pounds of lead. They also were ordered to drill every Sunday.

In 1791, the law changed the day of the weekly drills to Saturday. Those those who attended church services - with their guns - were exempt from drill.

How far we have sunk in Ohio, from a day when all men were not only allowed, but required by law to own firearms. Back then, Ohio law recognized that an armed society was a safer society.

Notice that churches were not legislated as victim zones, but rather that the law gave citizens incentive not only to attend church, but to do so while armed.

Misguided religious leaders partly to blame for the change

In 1859, a law banning the carrying of concealed weapons was adopted by state legislators in Ohio. And the historical record proves many of our nation's gun control laws were passed with incredibly racist overtones.

The same type of bigotry exists today among those who continue the fight to disarm law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves, their children, their spouses, their property, and their homeland. And unfortunately, as noted by firearms researcher Dave Kopel, some of this anti self-defense bigotry can be sourced to certain religious institutions.[2]

According to Kopel, 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.

I've also been told the Catholic Church is a reason Substitute HB 48 does not contain a fix for places of worship.

The roots of Ohio's anti-gun alliances can also be traced to these same sorts of religious groups.[3]

Every time I think about Ohio's prohibition on guns in places of worship, the names of congregations across the country echo through my mind:

  • Wedgewood Baptist Church in Texas (1999, seven killed).[4]
  • Living Church of God in Wisconsin (2005, seven killed).[5]
  • The Ministry of Jesus Christ in Louisiana (2006, five killed)[6]
  • Youth With A Mission and New Life Church in Colorado (2007, four killed.[7]
  • Emanuel A.M.E. Church in South Carolina (2015, nine killed).
The Solution

After each new multiple victim public shooting, gun rights advocates point out that nearly every shooting occurs in a place where guns were banned, and predict that the death toll could have been far less had citizens been allowed their right to bear arms for self-defense in those locations.

There have been previous examples that prove this point - Appalachian Law School[8], a high school in Pearl, Mississippi[9], New Life Church[10], and Boiling Springs' South Side Freewill Baptist Church near Spartanburg, SC.[11]

Many will recall that church leadership at New Life made a plan to allow their flock to protect themselves. Their plan included allowing armed church members to patrol the hallways. And after evil came knocking, that church's pastor told the world that had they not taken those measures, many, many more bodies would have been carried out of that church.

I know of another church that has taken similar measures. The church at which my late father-in-law pastored in Tennessee recognizes that large amounts of cash in the building on any given Sunday was an attractive target, and encourages ushers who had concealed handgun licenses to carry. No doubt at least some of those in the pews do the same, just as I did when I attended services there. The potential mass murderer or enterprising druggie hoping to steal thousands of dollars in tithe money will most certainly not be allowed to carry out his plan for mayhem in that place.

At most churches in Ohio, it is a different story altogether, despite the fact that research proves that at least 90% of multiple victim public shootings happen in places where guns are banned.[12] Yet legislators in Columbus have neither the wisdom nor foresight of the Colorado and Tennessee church leaders I just mentioned. This simply should not be.


  • Ask the leaders in your place of worship if you and fellow CHL-holders can be a part of a ''security guard ministry''[13].
  • Tell your legislators that places of worship shouldn't be listed among the places where persons with murderous intent can take a gun, having full assurance that their intended victims have been disarmed by Ohio law. It isn't too late. One option would be for the Senate to reinsert language correcting Ohio law for concealed carry in places of worship back in to HB 48 in the Senate. Another option would be for the House to pass HB 452, which was recently introduced by Rep. Nino Vitale (R) introduced.
  • Finally, please join me in praying that these decision-makers act to allow the flock their right to self-protection before the next wolf comes out of the woods.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.


[1] "Soldiers fined 50 cents for lack of weaponry", Cincinnati Enquirer, July 25, 2003, http://www.enquirer.com/editions/2003/07/25/loc_ohiodate0725.html

[2] "Is The Best Defense is a Good Book?", Dave Kopel, America's First Freedom, February 2007, http://www.davekopel.com/Religion/Is-the-best-defense-a-good-book.pdf

[3] "Exposed: Pulling back the curtain on the gun grabbers' Wizard of Toledo," Chad D. Baus, August 22, 2005, http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/node/2664

[4] "Terror in Texas," PBS's Online News Hour Report, September 16, 1999, http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/july-dec99/shooting_9-16a.html

[5] "Church, Police Probe 7 Murders," CBS News, March 14, 2005, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/03/14/national/main679823.shtml

[6] "Man Charged With Shooting 5 in La. Had Domestic Problems," FOX News, May 22, 2006, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,196369,00.html

[7] "Lone Gunman Killed Four in Colorado Church Shooting Sprees, Cops Say," FOX News, December 10, 2007, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,316322,00.html

[8] "Law School Shooter Pleads Guilty; Former Student Avoids Death Penalty in Deal on Va. Slayings," Washington Post, February 28, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A13871-2004Feb27.html

[9] "Town tries to cope with school shooting," Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, October 11, 1997, http://www.lubbockonline.com/news/101297/LA0540.htm

[10] "Lone Gunman Killed Four in Colorado Church Shooting Sprees, Cops Say," FOX News, December 10, 2007, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,316322,00.html

[11] "Churchgoer with concealed carry permit stops man with shotgun," Chad D. Baus, April 5, 2012, http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/churchgoer-concealed-carry-permit-stops-m...

[12] "Multiple Victim Public Shootings, Bombings, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handgun Laws: Contrasting Private and Public Law Enforcement," John R. Lott and William M. Landes, University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 73, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=161637

[13] "Does YOUR place of worship have a 'security guard ministry'?," Chad D. Baus, March 19, 2005, https://www.buckeyefirearms.org/does-your-place-worship-have-security-gu...

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