GUNS & GOD | Harford Co. proposal would let congregants carry guns

GUNS & GOD | Harford Co. proposal would let congregants carry guns

ABINGDON, Md. (WBFF) - Since 1848, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harford County has been drawing crowds on Sundays.

Now its pastor, a former police officer, wants one member of his congregation to be allowed to carry a concealed weapon during the services.

Father Thomas Allen is worried about church safety in light of recent attacks on churches nationwide.

"It would give us the tools and options to exercise the rules of self-defense,” he said, adding “churches are soft targets."

Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, a Republican, said: "What’s more vulnerable than a church?"

Gahler is pushing for legislation with Sen. Wayne Norman and Del. Kathy Szeliga that would clear the way for the 300 houses of worship in the county to allow a member to carry a gun. They call it the Parishioner Protection Act of 2018.

The legislation will permit the wearing and carrying of a concealed handgun on church owned property by any "law-abiding" member of the congregation, providing they have written permission from the governing body of the church and are legally able to possess a firearm in the State of Maryland.

Gahler said: "Giving churches the ability to permit congregation members to wear and carry a firearm will save lives and allow citizens to protect themselves in our houses of worship."

The executive director of the group Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence was quick to show her opposition to the proposal. Elizabeth Banach explained it could lead to accidents. She said: "It’s not going to help the situation. It will just make the charges of discharging a weapon much more likely."

Banach also explained: "The FBI has done analysis that shows individuals are 20 times more likely to stop an active shooter situation when they are unarmed than when they are armed.".

The proposal would need approval in the Maryland legislature before it could take effect.

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