Republican Gov. Phil Bryant of Mississippi signed a bill into law on April 15 that allows churches to arm themselves with designated security guards (video below). House Bill 786 also allows state residents to carry holstered handguns without a permit.
Republican state Rep. Andy Gipson, author of the Church Protection Act, said he wished "we lived in a world where this bill wouldn't be necessary," notes The Clarion-Ledger.
The Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs said the bill basically eliminates the need for a license to carry a concealed handgun in public and puts police in danger.
Gipson, who is also a minister, has insisted present laws allow a person to carry a concealed weapon without a permit He has confirmed that his bill also allows handguns to be carried in holsters without a permit, which is new to the state.
That fact was also cited by a NRA spokeswoman who said the Church Protection Act makes Mississippi the ninth state to allow people to carry holstered guns without a permit, reports The Associated Press via CBS News.
The Church Protection Act aso specifies that designated people can carry guns into churches as security guards, which raises ethical questions among some clergy.
"I think in the South people have a certain familiarity with guns and are also strong in their religious beliefs," Pastor Pat Ward told AP.
"But we don't always think about the relationship between them," Ward added. "What does our familiarity with guns say about us as people who claim to be following God, who preach about peace and love?"
There are no verses in the Bible that call for arming church members, even though most of Jesus' disciples were executed.
According to the Association of Police Chiefs, the new law makes it harder to check if a gun owner is a violent criminal because the bill undermines the state gun licensing system.
The NRA has strongly opposed gun licensing and background checks for decades.