Texas Passes a Bill to Carry Handguns in Churches

Licensed gun owners now have the right to be armed in places of worship

Texas lawmakers passed a bill that would normalize licensed gun owners to bring weapons into houses of worship , including churches and synagogues. The only exception to this law is if the property notably prohibits weapons from the premises. This measure is thought to be a knee-jerk reaction almost a year and a half after a gunman shot into a congregation and killed 26 churchgoers in Southerland Springs. The enactment of the law mirrors the targeted attacks on houses of worship by extremists all over the world. The latest of such incidents is a California synagogue shooting during the last week of April which resulted in one worshiper succumbing to death and three others getting injured. There was a precedence – a gunman slaughtered 11 worshipers in October 2018 when he entered The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and emptied his firearm.

The Texas bill will codify a particular opinion which Ken Paxton, the state Attorney General, issued a month ago after a gunman shot dead more than 24 individuals at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. This horrific incident, which happened in November 2017 led the Attorney General to determine that licensed handgun holders may legally carry their weapons in all places of worship except written or oral notice prohibiting the same. Guns cannot be carried into any worship place which expressly bans weapons from the premises.

The legislation will also reduce the penalties imposed on licensed handgun owners who brought weapons into any prohibited area by mistake. The law, however, would increase penalties from misdemeanor to felony if it is observed that the armed person in question refuses to exit a prohibited area post receiving a due warning. Donna Campbell, a state Senator from the Republican Party, introduced the bill and said the measure would provide houses of worships much-needed power to frame their own rules when it came to licensed handguns. The Senator used popular but flawed rhetoric to push the bill, repeating the false cliché of a good guy carrying a firearm is the best defense.

Gun control advocates do not subscribe to such logic. Several studies have revealed that the expansion of concealed carry laws results in a jump of violent crime. A 2018 study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that permitting citizens to carry weapons results in a 13 percent to 15 percent rise in violent crimes within the 10th year.

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