Photo Credit: Mehrshad Rezaei/Pixabay, Joe Goldberg/Flickr
Woman with gun protects shul

Republican and Democratic NJ state lawmakers are inclined to support a bill to allow a handgun in houses of worship during services, NJ.com reported Tuesday.

Sponsored by Assemblymen Gary Schaer (D) and Ronald Dancer (R), Assembly bill No. 1255, “permits place of worship to establish security plan to select one person to carry handgun during religious services.”

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According to the proposed law, “the person selected to carry a handgun may serve the place of worship in a voluntary capacity or for monetary compensation. The provisions of this section shall not limit a governing body of a place of worship from employing an armed security officer pursuant to the Security Officer Registration Act.”

The legislation also states: “This bill allows the governing body of a place of worship to establish a security program by selecting one person to carry a handgun for the purpose of protecting religious service attendees. The bill defines “place of worship” as a building, including but not limited to a church, mosque or synagogue, used primarily as a place of public or private worship on a permanent basis by a recognized and established religious sect or denomination registered as a not-for-profit under the federal Internal Revenue Code.

“Under the bill, the selected person would be required to participate in a firearms training course held by the Police Training Commission, the Director of Civilian Marksmanship, or a recognized rifle or pistol association that certifies instructors. The bill provides that the selected person may serve in a voluntary capacity or for monetary compensation.

“In addition, the selected person may transport the firearm directly to and from person’s residence and the place of worship. The selected person would be subject to all other requirements 39 imposed under current law regarding the right to carry a firearm.

“The bill would not prohibit a place of worship from hiring an armed security officer or allowing a law enforcement officer or other person entitled to carry a firearm at all times in this State from serving as the person selected for the security program.”

The bill cites two notorious cases of violent attacks on religious congregations during services: “the November 5, 2017 mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in which 26 people were killed and 20 others were injured; and the October 27, 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in which 11 people were killed and seven were injured. It was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States.”

The bill concludes: “It is the sponsor’s intent to prohibit similar incidents from occurring by allowing places of worship to establish a security program.”

NJ.com noted that Gov. Phil Murphy favors gun control, but it’s doubtful he would veto this exceedingly restrained and reasonable bill. Indeed, the website mentioned that Gov. Murphy ordered State Police to heighten security at houses of worship after the stabbing of five Jews last Chanukah at a home in Monsey, NY.

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