NC House approves concealed handgun option for church services on campus

United Church of Chapel Hill. Photo by Michael Hyland/CBS North Carolina

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The state House approved a bill Monday night that would allow people to carry a concealed weapon at certain churches, citing concerns among some church leaders about security.

The lawmaker backing the bill says leaders of a church near her came to her about the issue and were concerned about safety.

But, some pastors say this goes too far and goes against what they preach at church.

It’s typically a tranquil scene at United Church of Chapel Hill, letting people know they are welcome.

But, one thing Reverend Richard Edens says is not welcome: guns.

“Having guns in a Sunday School. What value is that?” Edens said.

The State House voted Monday night 82-34 in support of a bill that could lead to more people carrying a concealed weapon at churches.

Republican Representative Rena Turner says a local church’s leaders approached her after the shooting at Emanuel AME in Charleston.

They said their security team would like to be able to carry a handgun.

“And, after that shooting in Charleston, they were just very concerned about their safety and feeling vulnerable,” Turner said.

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Her bill would allow someone to carry a concealed weapon at a site where there’s both church services and a school — but only during hours when school is not in session.

Schools that allow churches to use their buildings could still keep a no-gun policy.

“We live in a different world these days, and these people didn’t want to be prevented from protecting themselves,” Turner said.

But, Reverend Edens says there shouldn’t be any guns at his church whether it’s during the week or during Sunday School.

“Value all of our children whether they’re in public education or if they’re in religious education. Value the children. Keep the guns out,” Edens said.

Following Monday night’s vote, the bill heads over to the Senate.

Mike Santiago, a pastor at Focus Church, which holds services at Middle Creek High School, released a statement about the bill:

“Focus Church converts Middle Creek High School into a church facility every Sunday morning. As a church without a permanent facility, we are grateful for the opportunity to worship on government property. Historically speaking, both schools & houses of worship have been actively targeted by individuals looking to cause harm. We know that active security measures improve the safety and security of our congregation, and protecting our church is a top priority.  We take a proactive approach by having a well-trained security team that is prepared to take countermeasures against an assailant, with or without the use of firearms.  We do not worship in fear, we walk by faith. Regardless of the results of House Bill 174, our church is committed to seeing people experience the llife-changing message of Jesus Christ.”

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