Concealed Carry in Church
With the recent tragic events in South Carolina, it is past time to address concealed carry in church. Generally, in Mississippi, it is unlawful to carry a firearm into a house of worship (a church). However, in 2011, the Mississippi legislature amended our concealed carry licensing laws and permitted "enhanced permit holders" to carry a concealed firearm in a church. See Miss. Code. Ann. § 97-37-7(2).
In order to receive this "permission" to carry into a church, one must first have the regular permit issued by the Department of Public Safety and then attend an 8 hour instructional course on weapons training from "an instructor certified by a nationally recognized organization." Upon receiving this training, the permit holder will be given an endorsement on the back of his/her permit that shows that he/she received the additional training and is licensed to carry a firearm in additional places.
But why carry in a church? It seems as though that is our safe place, or at least it should seem that way. The truth is that it is not. A church is inviting. It wants everyone to attend. It doesn't turn people away based on how they dress, how much money they make, what color they are, or if they aren't even Christian. The church welcomes all. This is a good thing, but it also has its risks. A church is essentially a gathering of people which presents a soft target to a person intent on murder.
How do you protect yourself? The church leaders need to plan for the worst. They need to prepare for the possibility that someone will become a threat and plan for how to deal with that threat. This could mean a security team of licensed individuals. This could mean a number of different things, but being unprepared and hoping there is never a confrontation is not a solution to the threat. I found a good starting point for churches to aid in designing a plan. It can be found here. If your church doesn't have a plan, speak with leadership and give them your thoughts. Sometimes you will have to be "that guy" (or that lady) to force them to think about something they would rather not think about. Nobody wants to think about this happening at his or her church, but in the world we live in, it is a possibility that needs to be addressed. It is possible your church already has this "armed security team" in place. They may be reluctant to share that with you and that is okay.
If your church is interested in putting together a plan and, in my opinion, that plan should include individuals licensed and trained to use a firearm, make sure that those individuals are properly trained on how to use that firearm and the law. To that end, if there is a church, or a group of churches, interested in learning about the law, I will make myself available at no charge to give a presentation on firearms law in Mississippi in the metro area. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also have an extensive network of firearms trainers that I would be more than happy to reach out to if you are interested in receiving training on firearms too (which I highly recommend).