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Dealing with Concealed Carry Weapon Permits

In today’s world where shootings, such as those at Fort Hood, Texas and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, have become more commonplace, churches have become increasingly vigilant about the security of their congregations. While we have previously discussed church security teams and responding to church violence, the question comes up about what to do regarding members of the congregation with conceal carry weapon (CCW) permits who want to bring their weapon to church.

In general, a CCW permit allows the permit holder to carry a concealed weapon in public; however, some states may restrict the carrying of a concealed weapon while on or in certain facilities or businesses. In some states, houses of worship may be included as places in which carrying a concealed weapon is not allowed. States have generally taken two basic approaches:

  1. Churches and houses of worship are among the list of places in which concealed weapons cannot be brought. So, in these states, the church does not need to do anything further to prohibit CCW permit holders from bringing weapons to church because under the state law they are not allowed to carry in the church.

  2. Churches and houses of worship are not specifically listed as a prohibited place, but private business/property owners are permitted to ban weapons in their facility by posting signs. In those states, it is left to the sound discretion of the church on whether to prohibit CCW holders from bringing their weapons on to church property. The church may be guided by the following considerations:

    • In those states, individuals have a constitutional right to carry their weapon with them to the church and if a church is going to restrict that right they may want to consider having trained, armed (professional) security in place.

    • When posting a sign, the church has some duty to enforce the prohibition. It is unclear how churches would go about this as they are not going to search people, but they need to consider how to enforce.
      Some theories suggest that someone who is intent on committing far more serious crimes, such as murder, will not be deterred by a sign that prohibits weapons.

    • Additionally, posting “No Weapons” signs may make the church more attractive to these more serious crimes. These individuals are aware that they will not encounter weapons inside the church because the population is not armed and less likely to stop them.

    • Many states have specified the type and content that must be included in a sign prohibiting weapons. If the church decides to post a sign, they should make sure to comply with whatever their state requires in relation to signs.

Whatever your church decides in this matter, it is highly recommended that you review the concealed carry law in your state, and consult with your local law enforcement agency and legal counsel. For additional information on church security and violence prevention, please visit the SafeChurch website.

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