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The pistol-packing pulpit

Proposed bill would allow armed parishioners
Posted at 6:23 PM, Dec 12, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-12 18:23:55-05

It is a sign of the times.
If you are more than 10 minutes late to the Sunday service here at Forest Ridge Baptist Church in Harford County, you'll find the doors locked.
You only have to look at the deadly mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas last month for the reason why.

"Well, my main thought was that those parishioners there were not well-prepared to handle a situation such as that,” said Pastor Jeff Berg, “and so since then, I've reached out to the county sheriff's office to see if I can secure some aid on how to best prepare our church."

RELATED: Proposed bill would allow concealed guns in Harford Co. churches
With more than 300 churches in this county and only 20 deputies on patrol at any given time, Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler is seeking the help of Maryland lawmakers to help churches protect themselves by allowing them to designate members of their congregation to bring firearms to services for their protection.    

"This is a bill concept that we came up with obviously after the horrific shooting in Texas,” said Gahler, “We saw the one in Charleston a few years back and even before that, going back to 2006, we had the Mt. Zion Church here in Harford County, the whole entire congregation robbed at gunpoint during the middle of a service."
Under the proposed legislation, it would be up to individual churches to designate in writing who could carry concealed weapons on to the property, but they would not be required to have a handgun permit.

"In Maryland, we have a policy call that money is more valuable than self-defense,” said Sen. Wayne Norman (R-Harford County, Cecil County), “If you want a conceal carry permit and you carry money, you can probably get the permit, but if you say, 'I feel endangered every time I walk into my house of worship', it's not a good reason in Maryland."
Proponents say the measure would also give legal protection to the owner of the gun to transport the weapon to their place of worship.

Since the Texas shooting, we're told many churches in the county have asked members who are off-duty police officers to come to services armed with their weapons, but some simply don't have that option and can't afford to hire someone.