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VA Faith Groups Shocked at Bill to Allow Weapons in Churches

A Republican-controlled Senate committee has rejected a number of gun-control bills in favor of pro-gun legislation, including one last week. (Pixabay)
A Republican-controlled Senate committee has rejected a number of gun-control bills in favor of pro-gun legislation, including one last week. (Pixabay)
January 23, 2018

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia law bars people taking guns, knives and other weapons into religious meetings unless a person has what is termed a "good and sufficient reason" to carry one - but a state lawmaker wants to lift the ban.

Senate Bill 372 by Sen. Ben Chafin, a Russell County Republican, would overturn the statutory prohibition on guns and what the law calls "dangerous weapons" in places of worship.

Kim Bobo, executive director of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, says she is shocked that the General Assembly is even considering the idea.

"We think it's awful, just an awful bill," she says. "I've barely talked to anyone in the faith community who isn't really appalled at the idea of people bringing guns into their houses of worship."

But the legislation emerged from a Senate committee late last week on a party-line vote. Bobo says the Virginia Interfaith Center and the Virginia Catholic Conference have teamed up to fight the bill, and have started a petition drive.

All nine Republicans on the Senate Courts of Justice Committee approved repealing the law, while all six Democrats voted to keep it in place. Bobo says she is bewildered by the results.

"I just can't believe that these people who voted for this had talked to their pastors," she adds.

Sen. Chafin's website describes him as having a "consistent, steadfast record of defending the Second Amendment." He also recently voted against reporting a bill to committee that would've banned bump stocks, which transform semiautomatic firearms into fully automatic ones.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - VA