It’s Time to Stop ‘Leaving Your Sword’ outside Church

People enter a memorial in the Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church, November 15, 2017. (Reuters photo: Jon Herskovitz)
Force can stop force. Defensive arms are not unclean or disrespectful.

Last week it was Sutherland Springs, Texas; in September, Antioch, Tenn.; two years ago, Charleston, S.C. — all suffered high-profile shootings in churches. The high death toll in Texas especially, where gun ownership and concealed carry is widespread, highlights a serious problem.

Churches are frequent targets of gunmen, but churchgoers are uncomfortable carrying arms into places of worship. In September, church usher Caleb Engle made headlines for stopping a shooter in a church, but he had to use his bare hands, since he’d left his gun in the car. From 2006 to 2016, 147 shootings have taken place in churches. It’s time we take the advice of Texas attorney general Ken Paxton and ditch the idea that we should disarm for church.

People have a generalized discomfort about carrying weapons on holy ground. It is unclear where exactly that originated, but history is rife with examples of people just feeling uncomfortable being armed in church, as if it would be disrespectful to God and fellow worshipers. Many European churches still have “sword stands” outside the place of worship, from the days when a swordsman would disarm only to sleep and attend church.

The taboo against carrying weapons into church extends to America in our own day. Nine states and the District of Columbia have laws restricting the carrying of weapons in church, and Louisiana outright forbids it. Such laws only serve to make churches even more attractive targets to mass shooters.

Churches have always been targets of opportunity. Accordingly, early colonial regulations mandated the carrying of arms to church. “To prevent or withstand such sudden assaults as may be made . . . upon the Sabboth or lecture dayes, It is Ordered, that one person in every several howse wherein is any souldear or souldears, shall bring a musket, pystoll or some peece, with powder and shott to e[a]ch meeting.” Then, as now, it was recognized that the church, in its capacity as a place of peace and vulnerability, made it a prime target for attack. The response then, as it should be now, was to take appropriate precautions to protect parishioners.

Times are very different now from what they were in the early colonial era. We don’t need to carry a heavy musket or sword into church. That would certainly be disruptive to people expecting a peaceful environment. But we should be glad that modern manufacturing brings us tiny, effective firearms that can be carried concealed. The time has come for us to confront the fact that churches continue to be popular targets of violence. Churchgoers should unashamedly carry their arms into the pew. Defensive arms are not unclean or disrespectful. They only give the parishioner and his friends some fighting chance against a Dylann Roof or a Devin Kelley.

Unreasoned backlash from the political Left notwithstanding, nothing about carrying a concealed weapon is contrary to a church environment. Do not let ideologues keep you from protecting yourself and your friends. Wherever you legally can, keep your weapon, keep it politely, and know that it is only a means of last resort. Force can stop force. If more people carried their weapons to church, fewer people might be killed in shootings. Churchgoers should think about their security from attack, and if they have no gun, perhaps they ought sell their cloak and buy one.


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