Ohio's ban on defending lives in places of worship: How did it get this bad?

By Chad D. Baus

In Colorado, an armed citizen who volunteers to provide security at her church is being hailed as a "hero" after stopping a man who went on a killing spree Sunday. From CNSNews.com:

"She probably saved over 100 lives," Brady Boyd, the pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, said on Monday. The female guard, a church member dressed in plain clothes, killed the gunman after he opened fire at the mega-church. Boyd said she "rushed toward the attacker and took him down in the hallway" as he entered the building.

In Colorado, she is a hero who "probably saved over 100 lives."

In Ohio, on the other hand, if a church member with a concealed handgun license brings their firearm to church as a means of protection against such an 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.

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 (or massacres) 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

The earliest Ohio statute regulating or prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons appears to have been passed in 1917.[2] 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 recently, some of this anti self-defense bigotry can be sourced to certain religious institutions.[3]

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.

The roots of Ohio's anti-gun alliances can also be traced to these same sort of religious groups.[4]

I won't attempt to detail the strong Biblical support for bearing arms for self-defense here, but in addition to Kopel's article ("Is the Best Defense a Good Book?"), I highly recommend the online publication entitled "The Bible and Gun Control", and more specifically Essay 2, entitled "The Bible and Guns in America".[5]

Ohio law offers sheep attending places of worship to the wolves

Whether it be criminals in search of an easy mark, or terrorists in search of a place to inflict maximum damage, citizens who attend places of worship in Ohio have a reason for concern. Thanks to state law, CHL-holders are banned 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.

I attend church several times a week. Ohio law forces me to disarm each and every time I do. As I enter the building, as I sit in the auditorium, or as I look across a room packed with teens, the names of congregations across the country echo through my mind:

  • Wedgewood Baptist Church in Texas (1999 - seven killed).[6]
  • Living Church of God in Wisconsin (2005, seven killed).[7]
  • The Ministry of Jesus Christ in Louisiana (2006, five killed)[8]

And now a Youth With A Mission and New Life Church in Colorado. Four killed.[9]

The Solution

After each new multiple victim public shooting, gun rights advocates point out that nearly every shooting occurrs 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[10] and a high school in Pearl, Mississippi[11] to name two. And now there is New Life Church.

America is now learning 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 today that church's pastor is telling the world that had they not taken those measures, many, many more bodies would have been carried out of that church. (Jeanne Assam, the licensed, pistol-carrying "hero" church member, is pictured at right in a New York Times photo.)

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 my church in Ohio, where I am involved as a youth coach for high school students, it is a different story altogether. On Wednesday nights, more than 150 students attend, many of whom are visitors, or students whose families do not attend services on Sunday and who are unknown to the youth leaders. Current events have proven (in spades, with many involving attackers who were young) that no matter what size the town, no matter what kind of facility, etc., the potential for a multiple victim public shooting is possible.

In fact, 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.

ACT NOW: Ask the leaders in your place of worship if you and fellow CHL-holders can be a part of a ''security guard ministry''[13]. And tell your legislators that places of worship shouldn't be treated differently in the law than any other private property in the state of Ohio. 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 Vice Chairman and Northwest Ohio Chair.

[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] Clayton Cramer, Proponent Testimony to Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee, March 22, 1995, www.claytoncramer.com

[3] "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

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

[5] "The Bible and Gun Control", Essay 2 - "The Bible and Guns in America", http://www.alpinesurvival.com/bibleguncontrol.pdf

[6] "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

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

[8] "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

[9] "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

[10] "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

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

[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 15, 2005, http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/node/2311

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