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ccw in churches

Can I Concealed Carry In Church?

Unfortunately, there is nowhere safe or sacred to criminals and maniacs which leads some to wonder about concealed carry in church. During the past few years, there have been a number of mass shooting incidents at and around churches and temples of multiple religions and denominations.

Besides any objections a person may have based on their personal beliefs and morals, there is also the issue of state law. Just like CCW reciprocity, state laws vary and not every jurisdictions allow for carrying in places of worship.

Attacks On Churches And Houses of Worship

carrying a pistol at church

Ideally, there would be no attacks on churches or indeed on anyone or anywhere. Unfortunately, since how we live is so far removed from how we ought, the truth is concealed carry is relevant and necessary.

One of the locations that have become a target for deranged individuals is houses of worship. Some have been also been racially motivated as predominantly African-American churches have been targets of mass murder, such as the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., and the 2015 shootings perpetrated by Dylann Roof in Charleston, S.C.

Other religions have been targets as well. Mass shootings have taken place at Jewish community centers, such as in Los Angeles in 1999 and Overland Park, Kans. in 2014. The 2015 shootings in Copenhagen, Denmark (an extremists' response to the "Charlie Hebdo" cartoons) took place in two locations and claimed the lives of two people before gunman Omar El-Hussein was slain by police. One of those two locations was the Great Synagogue in the borough of Krystalgade, and the victim - attending a bat mitzvah - was killed.

In 2008, a gunman targeted the Unitarian Unversalist Church in Knoxville, Tenn., targeting "Democrats" and "liberals."

In 2012, six people were killed by a deranged gunman at a Oak Creek, Wisc., Sikh temple, and in Jan. 2017, a mosque in Quebec City, Quebec was targeted by a lone gunman. Six were killed and 19 others wounded or injured.

Several attacks on churches and houses of worship have been stopped by people carrying. In 2007, Jeanne Assam shot and killed one Matthew Murray, who was carrying out a mass shooting at the New Hope Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and had already claimed the lives of four people. In 2012, one Jessie Gates kicked in the door of the church he attended near Spartanburg, S.C. armed with a shotgun. However, he was greeted by parishoner Aaron Guyton, a licensed concealed carrier and his sidearm. The other parishoners disarmed Gates and held him until police arrived.

Sometimes it really does take a good guy with a gun.

Is Concealed Carry In Church Legal?

legal concealed carry

Just like concealed carry in schools and other locations, the legality of concealed carry in church is heavily influenced by state and municipal law. As a result, it behooves you to research the relevant laws in your city and state to be informed of the legality of doing so. This article, needless to say, is not to be taken as legal advice.

That said, the laws regarding carrying in houses of worship break down into three categories. Some states prohibit it, some require permission from the house of worship in question, and the rest leave it up to the house of worship in question to set the policy. Like any other private establishment, signage may carry the force of law or may not.

At present, only two states - Nebraska and Louisiana - specifically prohibit carrying firearms in a church or other place of religious worship.

There are seven states - and the District of Columbia - that require permission from the organization in question to carry in a church. Those states are Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina.

The rest of the United States treats churches just like any other private entity. It's up to the church/synagogue/mosque/temple in question to set policy. In case the policy is prohibitive, signage indicating firearms are not welcome in any capacity may have force of law, depending on state law. If not, a person carrying there against the wishes of the religious establishment may be asked to leave if discovered. If a person does not comply with said wishes, they could be liable to face trespassing charges and may be barred from the premises.

Again, it depends a whole lot on state law. Consult your state's rules and regulations for concealed carry for more clarification if needed; gun blogs on holster websites (as awesome as they are) are not and should not be relied upon for legal advice.

Deciding To Carry

choosing church carry

Whether or not to carry in your chosen place of worship is something you'll have to decide for yourself. Everyone has a different outlook on this matter which is totally their own affair. Some believe that such places are off-limits, and others believe that if a person is going to carry they should do so whenever and wherever they possibly can.

As a practical matter, concealment in formal dress may be required should a person choose to do so. As others may be very sensitive to a concealed firearm, it behooves a person to avoid printing or otherwise being discovered.

In that case, there are several concealment strategies for such attire. A high-riding, close-fitting OWB holster conceals very easily under a jacket provided the cut of the jacket or suit isn't close-fitting - so the standard or full cut is vastly preferred to the Italian cut.

For deep concealment, an IWB holster should be tuckable, in that a shirt should be able to tuck over the holster and completely conceal the firearm. Holster belt clips that tuck under the belt are also advisable, as is wearing trousers the same color as said belt clips.

Again, it's up to you to decide whether carrying in church is acceptable to you - this is a highly personal decision and thus shouldn't be made lightly.

Sam Hoober

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.