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States at the center of debate on guns in churches

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 15 2011 3:38 p.m. MST

A little more than a month after the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that left 6 people dead, gun control has again become a hot-button issue — although not in a form many might have expected.

According to Bloomberg, following the shooting, one-day sales of handguns in Arizona jumped 60 percent to 263 on Jan. 10 compared with 164 on that same Monday in 2009. States like Ohio, California, Illinois and New York also had large jumps in sales, and nationwide sales increased about 5 percent.

The rise in sales is a common result from such an event, CNBC reports. Another common reaction is for legislators and activists to push for tighter gun control and more regulations. According to OpenSecrets.org, the Arizona shooting was no exception.

However, efforts to revive the discussion of boosting gun control laws have largely fallen flat. President Barack Obama didnt mention gun control in his State of the Union address — a move that The Christian Science Monitor called a key omission. Although The New York Times quoted administration officials as saying the president would address gun control soon, little on the issue has been heard since.

While gun control efforts are not attracting a lot of attention nationwide, guns and churches are.

The Huffington Post reports that Rev. Jonathan Wilkins and a Georgia gun-rights association are part of the fight to overturn a state law prohibiting weapons in churches. WorldNetDaily reports that a number of other pastors are also banding together to push legislation on Georgias Capitol Hill.

What were fighting for is not that just any old body can carry guns in church, Wilkins is quoted as saying in USA Today. We would be responsible. We would want people who are trained, and so forth, to carry, people that we designate for protective purposes."

In Michigan, legislation is being debated that would repeal part of the states concealed-carry law. According to MLive.com, the section that would be repealed currently prohibits permit holders from carrying firearms into schools, churches, day care centers and college dorms.

In 2010, La. Governor Bobby Jindal signed a bill that would allow people to carry concealed handguns to church, with the permission of the individual houses of worship. The Huffington Post reports that legislation regarding guns and churches has failed in Kansas, Mississippi, Arkansas and Ohio.

In Utah, guns are not allowed in churches if individual churches choose to ban them. The decision can be communicated through personal communication or a sign, or by making announcements over the pulpit or in a newsletter, bulletin or newspaper.

In accordance with these guidelines, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement in 2004 sharing its intention to continue the churchs 1996 position regarding churches and guns.

Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world, the statement says. Consequently, lethal weapons, concealed or otherwise, do not belong in houses of worship.

According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, the LDS church made public a notice on Feb 8, 2011, regarding its prohibition of firearms. The positions of other churches in Utah regarding guns are not posted on the departments site.

In 2008, The Christian Science Monitor reported that there have been at least 13 major church shootings in the last decade.

CNN also examined these shootings in 2008, and reported that increasing violence has led some churches to consider allowing concealed weapons in church, or to hire security systems or personnel.

Armed guards in churches have already made a difference in some situations. In 2007, Matthew Murray entered the New Life Church in Colorado Springs and started shooting. According to TheDenverChannel.com, Murray carried 1,000 rounds of ammunition, two handguns and an assault rifle. Church security volunteer Jeanne Assam was hailed as a hero after she shot and killed Murray.

After the incident, Barry Noreen of the Colorado Springs Gazette wrote that armed guards are necessary in todays world.

"Armed guards outside a worship service, air marshals aboard commercials flights, metal detectors in public buildings, constant cameras in shopping malls and at intersections: They all instill in us a sense of generic, pervasive danger, Noreen wrote. Before Sundays tragedy, some might have thought it a bit over the top to have armed guards at New Life Church. By Monday morning, those people awoke to what might have seemed a new, harsher world.

No, he concluded. Its the same dangerous place it was just a couple of days ago.

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