Do guns belong in houses of worship?
A shooting in a Texas church — where a member of the congregation’s volunteer security squad shot and killed the gunman — is raising questions about whether weapons should be allowed in houses of worship.
It was a September 2019 law change that made it legal in Texas for licensed handgun owners to carry firearms into churches and places of worship.
In Alaska, bringing a gun to church is not against the law. The Alaska Department of Public Safety website lists several places where it is illegal to have a gun, including schools and courtrooms. Places of worship are not on the list.
Rev. Matt Schultz of First Presbyterian Church in Anchorage said people shouldn’t have to be worried about their safety when they come to a public place to pray.
“Should they have to be worried? No, they shouldn’t,” Schultz said. “But, alas, we are worried. I think every house of worship is.”
Schultz said his church takes security seriously, but the plan does not encourage people to bring their own guns to services.
“With the recent Texas shooting it's important to remember [the person who shot the gunman] was a trained officer, not just a random volunteer,” said Schultz. “When we start thinking, 'Are we going to put random armed volunteers in every house of worship?' That then begs the very real question, does that make us more safe or less safe? And I don't have the answer to that.”
She wrote in an email that security is a serious concern:
“We have solid working relationships with Homeland Security, the FBI and APD and have been diligent in following their recommendations to keep our community safe. We also are in close consultation with the Anti-Defamation League. While we do not think it is prudent to discuss the specific policies we have in place here at Congregation Beth Sholom, we do acknowledge and support the lawful measures that any houses of worship employ, in accordance with their values, to ensure a welcoming and safe environment for their congregants.”
Other denominations, including representatives of the Islamic Community Center of Anchorage, were not available to interview on Tuesday.
Schultz said it doesn’t matter where the violence occurs. It affects everyone.
“When someone is injured or shot or killed or targeted for hatred, we suffer with them,” said Schultz. ”We feel that pain by their side and stand with them.”
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