St. Louis religion leaders specific oppose church firearms invoice

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Republican legislators say concealed weapons increase safety. Faith leaders dispute security claims, adding concerns for their First Amendment freedoms.

ST. LOUIS — As Missouri lawmakers once again take up the issue of firearms in houses of worship, St. Louis faith leaders urged them to reject the pending legislation.

“We are going to stick to our guns, and say ‘There should be no guns in a house of God,'” Congregational Temple Israel’s Rabbi Amy Feder said.

About a dozen leaders from different theological backgrounds participated in a Wednesday morning press conference organized by Catholic Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski. 

James Croft, leader of the Ethical Society of St Louis, joined to express “horror and total opposition to House Bill 944.”

The legislation would allow for concealed carry firearms in religious centers.

Currently, people need permission from religious leaders to bring firearms into places of religious worship in Missouri.

The pending bill would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring guns into churches, synagogues and mosques, and onto public transportation.

Missouri doesn’t require a concealed carry permit for gun ownership, but having a permit allows gun owners to bring their weapons into some otherwise restricted areas in the state.

Faith leaders argue the expansion of Second Amendment rights interferes with their First Amendment freedom and creates a problem that doesn’t exist.

“I actually didn’t believe that this legislation was real because it seems like it such an absurd idea,” Feder said. “The question that we kept asking ourselves was ‘who would possibly want this? Who thinks that this is something that people need in our houses of worship?'”

Proponents like Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, citing a 2019 incident in which a church security team in Texas stopped an armed shooter after he fatally shot two of their fellow congregants.

But faith leaders argued Wednesday their security training has indicated that additional firearms make the crowds less safe.

Other examples show how firearms can be detrimental to safety.

In January, a Texas pastor was disarmed by a suspect hiding in a church and killed with his own gun.

In 2016, a concealed permit holder shot and killed another Pennsylvania parishioner after a fight over seating.

In 2012, a concealed weapon permit holder accidentally shot a woman during a trivia night fundraiser at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Wentzville.

Faith leaders also said the firearms bill detracts from the voters’ real priorities, like Medicaid expansion which they said would create a far healthier, safer population. Taylor said voters gave Missouri Republicans the super-majority to pass legislation like firearms expansion.

“I think we do,” Taylor said of the numbers required. “It always comes down to the timing in the legislature. There are a lot of ways that bills die, unfortunately, in the legislature. Good legislation just doesn’t make it across the finish line. But yeah I’m hopeful that we can get this done.”

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