St. Louis faith leaders express oppose church firearms bill
Republican lawmakers say concealed weapons increase security. Faith leaders deny security claims and add concerns about their liberties under the First Amendment.
ST. LOUIS – When Missouri lawmakers revisited the issue of firearms in places of worship, St. Louis religious leaders urged them to reject pending laws.
“We will hold on to our weapons and say, ‘There should be no weapons in a house of God,'” said Amy Feder, rabbi of the Israeli Temple.
About a dozen leaders from various theological backgrounds attended a Wednesday morning press conference organized by Catholic Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski.
James Croft, chairman of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, banded together to express “horror and utter opposition to House Bill 944”.
Legislation would allow hidden firearms to be carried in religious centers.
Currently, people require permission from religious leaders to bring firearms to places of religious worship in Missouri.
The upcoming bill would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring weapons into churches, synagogues and mosques, as well as into public transport.
Missouri does not require a concealed carry permit for gun possession, but with a permit gun owners can bring their guns into some otherwise restricted areas of the state.
Faith leaders argue that extending second amendment rights affects their first amendment freedom and creates a problem that does not exist.
“I actually didn’t believe this legislation was real because it seems such an absurd idea,” said Feder. “The question we kept asking ourselves was: Who would possibly want this? Who believes that this is something that the people in our houses of worship need?”
Proponents such as Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Nixa, cited a 2019 incident where a Church security team in Texas stopped an armed shooter after he fatally shot and killed two of their congregations.
But faith leaders argued Wednesday that their security training showed that additional firearms made the crowd less safe.
Other examples show how the safety of firearms can be compromised.
In January, a Texas pastor was disarmed by a suspect hiding in a church and killed with his own gun.
In 2016, an undercover permit holder shot and killed another Pennsylvania parishioner after a row over seats.
In 2012, a clandestine gun permit holder accidentally shot and killed a woman during a fundraiser at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Wentzville.
Faith leaders also said the firearms law undermines voters’ real priorities, like the expansion of Medicaid, which they said would create a far healthier and safer population. Taylor said voters gave Missouri Republicans a super-majority to pass laws like the expansion of firearms.
“I think we are,” said Taylor of the numbers required. “It always depends on the timing in the legislature. There are a lot of ways that bills unfortunately die in the legislature. Good legislation just doesn’t make it across the finish line. But yeah, I hope we can.” Finish that. “