Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the “Church Protection Act” into law on Friday. Churches now have a right to organize their own “security programs,” the members of which have permission to bring guns into church and shoot to kill. The team members are protected from charges of murder and from threat of civil liability.
Every Church Has A Right To A Gun-Enforced ‘Security Program’
That part of the bill gives the right to individuals, selected by the church’s governing body and who already have a firearms permit, to act in defense of the congregation in a church or “place of worship.” It specifies that they will undergo training in the safe handling and use of firearms in order to be eligible to join the security program. Some prohibitions on who is eligible are spelled out. For instance, the measure bans felons and habitual drug users.
These free-wheeling security programs are bad enough news for the proliferation of arbitrary gun use, but another section of the brand-new law has especially raised fear and outrage from both gun reform groups and the police. The worst part of the legislation lets anyone carry a holstered gun without any kind of permit or license. Section 2 specifies:
“A license * * * under this section is not required for a loaded or unloaded pistol or revolver to be carried upon the person in a sheath, belt holster or shoulder holster or in a purse, handbag, satchel, other similar bag or briefcase or fully enclosed case if the person is not engaged in criminal activity other than a misdemeanor traffic offense.”
Shirley Hopkins Davis, leader of the local chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said:
“Our Governor failed us today … Dismantling the system that requires a permit to carry a concealed handgun in public flies in the face of public safety and common sense.”
Much of America would agree with a loud, ‘Well, duh!’ What kind of public safety policy leaves a state’s law enforcement officers feeling like their lives are at additional, and unnecessary, risk?
Common Sense In Public Spaces? Too Much To Ask!
Ken Winter, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs, voiced his objections to the law back in February:
“This bill would put law-enforcement officers and all Mississippians directly in harm’s way.”
Then again, in April, Winter sounded a warning to the Associated Press, pointing out that law enforcement was going to have a heck of a time trying to figure out who was “engaged in wrongdoing,” and that officers would face an elevated “threat level.”
Did the warnings make any difference? Of course not. We’re talking about Mississippi — the Hospitality State, if you can believe that.
The person whose voice did get heard is Baptist Minister Andy Gipson, the Republican state representative who wrote the law. Gipson lauded the bill’s signing on Facebook, as well as praising the extension of the Castle Doctrine to churches. That doctrine provides authorization for the use of force against an intruder in one’s “abode”, along with immunity from liability for the consequences.
Gipson refrained from adding any “Hallalujahs!” However, he did write a hearty “Thank you Gov. Bryant!” in his post.
The “Church Protection Act” was created in response to the shooting deaths of nine people last year in a Charleston, South Carolina church — three whole states away from Mississippi, but deemed a “necessary” reason for the legislation anyway. While reasonable people called for gun control reform in response to the massacre, Mississippi decided to turn their state into “the wild, wild West,” as Shirley Davis put it.
Of course, the National Rifle Association was exultant, along with Rep. Gipson, over their “big win.” Chris W. Cox, executive director of the organization’s Institute for Legislative Action, said:
“It’s a great day for law-abiding gun owners in Mississippi. This will allow them to carry firearms for personal protection in the manner that best suits their needs.”
But to hell with what “best suits” the needs of law enforcement officers, much less Mississippians who have been put “in harm’s way.” But that’s Mississippi — consistent to the core in its lack of “common sense.”