Faith leaders from different denominations have rejected a proposed Missouri gun bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons inside churches without the need to advise the church leaders.
HB 1936, which Republic Rep. Jered Taylor filed in January, proposed to change an existing law and loosen regulations. Currently, gun owners with CCW permits from the state have to also ask permission from the church to carry a concealed weapon in their place of worship.
Religious leaders from the Baptist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Jewish Lutheran and Methodist faiths argued that such a law would violate religious liberty. The archbishop of St. Louis, Most Rev. Robert Carlson, said in a press conference: "The bill would broaden Second Amendment rights at the expense of the First Amendment right of religious liberty."
HB 1936 already passed two readings with Republicans voting for the bill and Democrats rejecting the bill. Supporters of the proposal said that gun-free areas are at risk from mass shooters but that this could be prevented if there were people carrying concealed weapons in churches.
"If they don't want [concealed guns on their property], all they have to do is post a sign just like any private property," Taylor said, adding that there are also other churches that support his bill. "Allowing the church to decide will not infringe on their religious liberty rights."
Missouri passed a bill into a law in 2014 that would make carrying guns legal in public places, including schools. The state also lowered its CCW permit age limit to 19.
Since then, Missouri's death rate due to firearms -- whether by attacks, accidents or suicides -- increased to 19 per 100,000 population, as of 2016, which is a lot higher than California (7.9) and New York (4.4), as per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.