Guns in Church Bill Dies in La. House

A measure that would allow concealed handguns to be carried in churches failed to make it past the Louisiana House on Thursday.

In a 45-39 vote, the bill fell short of the 53 votes needed to pass.

State Rep. Henry Burns (R-Haughton) plans to reintroduce the bill for another vote.

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Burns has contended that the bill is all about choice. Churches can either implement a security plan using members of the congregation who have permits or not allow guns at all.

Existing state law bans concealed handguns from church, synagogue, mosque, or other similar places of worship. Burns' proposed measure creates an exception to allow churches to employ armed security guards or authorize any person with a handgun permit to carry the weapon.

Anyone who is not part of the church's security plan and brings a gun to church would be breaking the law. Also under the measure, pastors or ministers would be required to inform the congregation of the authorization.

At least a half dozen states have passed similar proposals.

The bill was introduced as more shootings in churches have been documented in recent years. Most recently, shots were fired by young gang members last month at Cosmopolitan Baptist Church in Oakland, Calif., at the conclusion of a funeral service. No one was injured.

Earlier in February, two teenaged brothers were shot during Sunday services at New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ.

First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill., meanwhile, marked the first anniversary of their pastor's death in March. Pastor Fred Winters died at 45 after being shot through the heart while preaching to his congregation.

According to Christian Security Network, 30 percent of all churches experienced a threat or other emergency in 2008. And 75 percent of churches had no security plan in place.

"Times have changed," Burns said, according to The Times-Picayune. "We live in a different world today."

Rep. Barbara Norton (D-Shreveport), however, argued, "If we are going to turn a church into the wild, wild West, how can we put our hearts and minds into God's business? If we can't feel safe in church doing the business of the Lord, where else can we feel safe?"

Opponents also pointed to statistics showing that Louisiana's rate of deaths from firearms in 2006, whether accidental or intentional, was 19.58 for every 100,000 people, the highest in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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