Concealed weapons & churches - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Concealed weapons & churches

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Would worship for you be different if you knew others in the congregation were packing heat? Would it make you more at ease, or more on edge?

Just last week, Arkansas became the latest state to adopt a church protection act.

Under the law -- unless a church specifically says no -- concealed carry permit holders can bring their firearms onto the premises. Very few states have a specific law dealing with this.

Georgia bans guns in churches. Just last month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of that ban.

Here in Alabama, many places of worship hired armed officers. Few would talk about specific security policies.

"Obviously, in this day and age we would have to be concerned because of some of the violence that has taken place," says Frank Savage, with the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham.

Right now, there is no formal ban directed at concealed-weapons within the Diocese.

"There just hasn't been a need (for a ban). But I think every body's sensitivities are heightened since (Newtown Sandy Hook). In this country, it is a difficult issue for us to deal with," says Savage.

However, do concealed-carry permit holders have the right to bring a firearm into a church?

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office declined an on-camera interview but told ABC 33/40 a place of worship is like any other private property owner.

If it declares concealed-weapons banned on the property, then a violator would be considered trespassing.

Members of other churches declined to go on camera, but confirmed security policies are in place.

Many have armed guards or off-duty police officers, who attend services and carry a weapon. However, the churches would not say whether they banned concealed-weapons.

The Dioceses says it is in the process of reviewing security policies for schools in the area, which could possibly establish new policies for the church.

"Schools have to look at a lot of different issues, so there may be some experience that can be gleaned in terms of policy development in that area that may have a bearing on what we do in churches," says Savage.

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