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Florida bill could allow concealed weapons in more churches

Posted at 7:51 PM, Feb 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-16 19:51:12-05

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — Lawmakers who back the Safety of Religious Institutions, or Florida House Bill 259 say allowing more guns in churches will protect parishioners from mass shootings.

Reverend Roy Terry of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in Naples says his faith won't allow him to go along with it. If passed, the bill would allow Catholic schools, and churches with schools on their grounds to permit concealed weapons.

“It’s my convictions as a follower of Jesus, who’s the advocate for peace, and justice in the world, and calls us away from violence,” said Rev. Terry.

He’s aware of the violent reality so many churches have experienced nationwide, but says that’s still not enough to convince him to invite more weapons to his church.

“Those tragedies were horrific and terrible, and cowardly by those who portrayed those acts. But I also know that there are statistics that say that having a bunch of guns in a public space, does not necessarily mean that everybody’s going to be safer,” he said.

Florida House Representative Spencer Roach (R) disagrees.

“It’s going to allow people to defend themselves and protect their congregation, and houses of worship,” he said.

He’s a cosponsor of HB 259. He says he supports it, especially after what happened during a church shooting in Tarrant County, texas in 2019. Two people were killed and then a church volunteer shot and killed the gunman.

“You saw there a good guy with a gun, take out a bad guy with a gun who was attempting to inflict mass slaughter on about 240 people,” he said.

If passed, the bill will also knock down what Rep Spencer Roach calls road blocks presented by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, .which allowed concealed weapons at schools, but not churches with schools or catholic schools.

Churches will not be required to allow guns inside, under HB 259, and can post signs prohibiting. Representative Roach says it’s headed to another house committee for a vote in coming weeks.