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Concealed Carry in Churches

Updated: 9/14/16

Concealed Carry at Church_011117

After the country mourned over the lives lost in the Charleston SC shooting in 2015 the laws and politics surrounding guns in churches and gun free zones were cast once again into the spotlight.

The Christian Argument for Firearm Self-Defense

christian self defense scripturesThere are long articles and books out there about this topic. Consider 2 things from scripture that are consistent and repeated:

First, God expects us to watch over his flock and be a “keeper” of our brother. It is each individual's duty to watch over and protect each of God's children. We are to defend His sheep and gather those who are scattered and watch over them. After all, “Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his brothers.” (Psalm 23, Luke 12:37, John 15:13, Acts 20:28, Titus 1:8)

Second, scriptures continually support self-defense by force. In Luke, Christ tells his disciples to sell their garments to buy a sword, and in Ezekiel the word of the Lord tells us that he will hold each of us responsible to take up our own sword and protect ourselves. In 1 Chronicles we are told that watchmen were set over the entrance of the tabernacle. (Luke 22: 35-36, Ezekiel 33:1-6, 1 Chronicles 9:19)

Are Churches As Dangerous as the Media Suggests?

In a 2016 Active Shooter training I attended, put on by the Department of Homeland Security, they shared that almost 4% of active shooter situations in the US take place in churches and houses of worship. An active shooter situation is more than something beyond a simple violent attack or shooting. 4% may not seem like a lot… and I was curious so I had our research team do a little digging.

I asked our team to find every church shooting from the years 2005 to 2015 in the United States and provide me with a link to the news story. They were able to find 87.

Currently Most State Laws Allow For Concealed Carry In Churches

As seen below in the map, most states treat churches and houses of worship like any other private property, allowing that unless prohibited by the property owner, those with concealed carry permits or the legal authority to carry concealed may do so in a house of worship.

Blue: Churches act like any other private property and may restrict on a church by church basis
Red: Concealed Carry NOT allowed in churches
Yellow: Concealed Carry allowed only with permission from church leader

Should You Ask Permission?

If you live in a state where churches are not off limits, and assuming your church doesn't outwardly prohibit it, should you ask permission? No, you shouldn't ask, but it may be a good idea to ask if there is a security team in place or volunteer to start one.

You should never feel obligated to ask permission to carry your firearm anywhere you have a legal right to have it. With that said, it is common for churches to form a security team of volunteers who are positioned, organized, and often trained to response in an emergency. Your contribution to your own security and that of others will be far greater if you are a part of that organized response.

RESOURCE: CONCEALED CARRY TECHNIQUE WITH SHIRT AND TIE

Tactical Response Considerations for Houses of Worship

Is There An Organized Response Team and Plan?

As mentioned above; I can not overemphasize the importance of finding out if your church has an organized security team or response plan. Acting as a lone wolf when there are organized responders will not only make it more difficult to be effective but could inhibit those who are most prepared from doing their job. Ask your church leader if they are aware of any team or organization that is in place. If not would they be open to you organizing some volunteers? Beyond that conversation, if you still decide to proceed against the wishes of your leader that is up to you but at least you have clarified if there is already a plan in place and how you can best participate.

Positioning in the Building or Chapel

If you intend to take action position yourself as close to an entrance as you can. This will empower you to be a first line of defense while also putting you in the best place to observe the entrance and behavior of each attendee.

Familiarity and Behavior Observation is Critical

If you are going to experience a threat during your church worship it will most likely come from an outsider and not from a regular attendee. Work hard to recognize faces so you are able to pick out strangers and new attendees. When someone new does attend take the opportunity to introduce yourself, welcome them, and observe their behavior. This is not only tactical its only very Christian. Trust your gut. If someone's behavior seems off or alarming consider sitting close to them, perhaps directly behind them so you can more closely watch their movements while also offering friendship.

Large Crowds Make For Really Bad Shooting Backstops

Churches are really bad places to shoot a firearm. Innocent people are everywhere and a firearm should be thought of as a last resort after any other potential response has been used or eliminated. To clarify; I'm not suggesting that if you have an active shooter you first try throwing bibles before you decide to shoot. Act decisively to save lives but leave that firearm holstered until it is abundantly clear that more lives will be lost if you don't act.

RESOURCE: How to Respond to Threats In Large Crowds

Schools in Churches

Many States Have Laws that specifically address schools that are within churches. In states where there is no specific legislation concealed carry holders need to be careful when carrying in churches in which there is a school in the building particularly during the week when the school is in use. Check with your local attorney and get clarity with the potential legal implications in your state.

A Message for Pastors and Church Leaders

concealed carry in churchYou need to ask yourself what you are doing to protect your flock. The people who come to your church to worship expect a safe and spiritual environment. Ensuring their security is part of the greater effort you must have to create that environment.

  1. Find out what your state laws say (the above map is a good starting point)
  2. If possible recruit and train (or recommend training) for a security team that is able and ready to respond
  3. Communicate to your regular attendees what you have done to help them feel safe and communicate what policy if any you have in place for those who are not part of that security team.

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37 Responses to Concealed Carry in Churches

  1. Mr.Adams April 5, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    what if i live in a state that does not permit you to carry in a church
    but the pastor of the church appoints you as security and gives you permission
    to carry

    • Jacob Paulsen April 5, 2016 at 8:37 am #

      Mr Adams, if you are referring to one of the states shown in Red on our map then the Pastor and the gun owner are both probably in violation of the law. Not saying I’m for or against that action, only that the law makes it clear you can’t carry concealed in a church. If you are referring to one of the yellow states on our map then the Pastor’s permission is all that is required to remove the legal restriction.

      • Gary June 13, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

        Louisiana is the only state in red, and the only state where there would be a problem.

  2. Charles Cherry April 5, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    As of Jan 1 2016 Churches are no longer gun free zones in Texas unless they post the appropriate signage.

    • Jacob Paulsen April 5, 2016 at 11:00 am #

      Thanks Charles, somehow I missed that churches were part of the new legislation down there. Map above has been updated.

  3. Sammy Henson April 5, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    Texas allows carry in churches unless they post a 30.06 or 30.07 sign. when the concealed law was initially passed it did prohibit carry in churches but it has been amended. Please check to see if you can change the color for Texas.

    • Jacob Paulsen April 5, 2016 at 11:01 am #

      Thanks Charles, somehow I missed that churches were part of the new legislation down there. Map above has been updated.

  4. Dr Bill Chachkes April 6, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    Jacob, great article! My situation is unique in the fact that my congregation borrows space from a Christian fellowship church, but it’s not in a traditional church building, which fits the bill for us(Messianic Judiasim). I am head of Safety, and several of us are Vets(6),Retired LEO’s(3) and the Rabbi is a Navy vet, and the Cantor(asst. rabbi) is an Army Early nam vet. So all of us shoot. I was able to get a team together to “do security”
    My issue is getting these folks trained. Boone has time, and everyone is afraid to get butt hurt when they get told something they don’t want to hear…. So to Quote Micheal Bane ” no one has the brains of a Dann Hamster”
    So anyway, we had 5 cameras installed last fall, and some locks improved. I am the first responder to any incident. I’ve been a certified EMT since before y2k.
    My attitude is “it’s only a matter of time…..
    Discuss please

    • Jacob Paulsen April 6, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

      Dr Bill, thanks for your comment. This is a topic our company has been researching recently. It seems like there aren’t a lot of options out there for training oriented for a church security team or team member. We have found in a few metros where there are regularly held training class or courses and there are a few companies that specialize in this kind of training but it is often expensive or very inconvenient for your average church volunteer. We have been looking at developing a course (though probably still a year or more down the road) that would be available digitally and afford-ably. Until then I would focus on small but regular training sessions that are short and incident specific with your team. Maybe its always the first Tuesday night of the month or something similar. One month you might be focused solely on fire evacuations or on identifying suspicious behavior. If you keep these training sessions to no more than 90 minutes or so I think you could expect good attendance. You could probably find instructors or off duty officers (potentially several of the people on your team already) to offer to take turns conducting this training. For groups like yours where there is already a lot of expertise on the team you probably need to focus on getting everyone on the same page. Having standard policies and procedures that everyone knows about to ensure the team moves in sync and in accordance with the guidelines that will minimize risk but also organizational liability.

  5. Joe May 17, 2016 at 11:29 am #

    I live in NJ. With that being said i do not(and never will get due to laws) have a concealed carry license. My pastor has asked me to carry at every event on the church property. Is this legally allowed? Would it be a legal nightmare if something ever happened that i needed to use it?

    • Jacob Paulsen May 17, 2016 at 11:39 am #

      Joe, yes I would say that carrying at the church events had better be worth it because the law in NJ doesn’t give you any specific right to carry concealed or openly anywhere without a license to do so.

      • Joe May 18, 2016 at 4:49 am #

        Even on the church’s property with the property owners permission?

      • sinjin August 23, 2016 at 7:54 pm #

        If NJ churches are truly considered “any other private property” then the (business) owners should be permitted to carry a firearm without licensing. Question is, who are the “owners” of a church that is incorporated? The trustees? The church officers?

        • Jacob Paulsen August 23, 2016 at 8:23 pm #

          This is the kind of thing that is generally state specific and best to consult an attorney about but generally speaking authority is passed from the owner of a property to the legal agent. If the property is leased for example then the person on the lease is the acting agent of the property owner. If the acting agent allows then any representative of the church could also be an acting agent.

    • Roy Hill October 17, 2016 at 5:45 pm #

      GET THE PASTOR’S RESPONSE IN WRITING. IF HE DEEMS IT NECESSARY FOR AN ARMED GUARD, YOU WILL BE SOMEWHAT COVERED BY THE PASTOR’S REQUEST.

      I TOO AM A PART OF CHURCH SECURITY, THEY TOLD ME NOT TO CARRY AS WE HAVE A LARGE CONTINGENT OF LEO’S PRESENT AT ANY ONE SERVICE. WE HAVE FIVE.
      I TAKE PART IN TWO.

      COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS AS BEING BLESSED WHEN YOU SERVE THE LORD.
      RH

  6. Ohioan May 26, 2016 at 9:39 am #

    You must receive permission in Ohio.

    Source: Ohio Revised Code

    “(B) A valid concealed handgun license does not authorize the licensee to carry a concealed handgun in any manner prohibited under division (B) of section 2923.12 of the Revised Code or in any manner prohibited under section 2923.16 of the Revised Code. A valid license does not authorize the licensee to carry a concealed handgun into any of the following places:

    […]

    (6) Any church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship, unless the church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship posts or permits otherwise;”

  7. Chris August 20, 2016 at 4:56 pm #

    In the State of VA you are not Permitted to concealed Carry unless you have permission

    Prohibited Conduct and Where Unlawful to Carry – Section 18.2-308.012

    Section18.2-283: To a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held at such place, without good and sufficient reason.

    • Jacob Paulsen August 23, 2016 at 10:48 am #

      Chris, thanks for sharing this. From how I read the statute it sounds like you need a good reason, not permission. Are there court precedents or legal decisions about how good and sufficient reason has been interpreted?

      • Rick Foster June 3, 2017 at 8:23 am #

        The Attorney General of Virginia shared his opinion that fear for personal safety or fear of terrorism we’re “good and sufficient” reasons. As far as I know, no court has established precedence in VA.

  8. gene August 27, 2016 at 9:56 pm #

    So much for separation of church and state….

  9. James A Wyatt September 14, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

    IT HAS ALWAYS SEEM TO ME THAT THE DECISION TO ALWAYS GO ARMED (AS WELL THE ATTENDANT ALERTNESS NECESSITY OF BEING INTENTIONALLY CONSCIOUS OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS AND THUS THE POTENTIAL FOR DANGER) IS SIMPLY AND ALWAYS THE INDIVIDUAL’S RESPONSIBILITY; THAT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF EACH OF US TO OUR INDIVIDUAL FAMILY MEMBERS AS WELL AS OUR LOVED ONES AND TO OURSELVES and laws that in any way place in jeopardy our ability to accept and execute that which is our individual responsibility are, as always, a CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER . . . ALWAYS. Based on that firm belief, for 60 of my soon to be 79 years, while working in 8 states for a 35 year tenure with my employer, beginning with the first two years in Chicago, known as the CRIME CAPITAL OF MIDDLE AMERICA, and subsequently in each of those states where ‘going armed’ was prohibited by each state’s ANTI-GUN LAWS, I have always ‘GONE ARMED REGARDLESS’ and will continue to do so REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT MY STATE’S HANDGUN PERMIT REMAINS VALID OR NOT!!!

  10. James A Wyatt September 14, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    REGARDING CHURCH PASTORS AND IT MEMBERS BEING ARMED, THE FOLLOWING IS SUBMITTED AS AN OBSERVATION ON THIS SUBJECT AND THE OBVIOUS NECESSITY OF THE RATIONAL AND REALITY INVOLVED.
    THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH & ITS PASTORS . . . AND ITS MEMBERS; THEN AND NOW

    BROTHER J. A. GEORGE was our Pastor at First Methodist – Kosciusko, Mississippi where we attended, this back in the years I was growing up; that back in 1940a &’50s and that era before the Methodist-affiliated itself with the liberal, socialist “National Council of Churches and, subsequently, the “World Council of Churches’ and we immediately we severed our all ties with the methodist. Brother George was an elderly tall still fit fellow; a college track star athletic back in his youth; he also a friend and quail hunting companion to Dad and me as well as his being our pastor.
    He was known for an incident that took place early in this ministry.
    As a young Pastor, he went to hold a revival in the mountain area of N.E. Tennessee where invariable ‘local drunk toughs’ would do their best to disrupt and close the services.

    (If you saw the movie about SARGENT ALVIN YORK, the Tennessee War Hero of WWI, there were scenes where he and his
    ‘Rowdy’ buddies did exactly that.) This young Pastor, Brother George, was not your ‘run of the mill, milk toast’ young Pastor ,however. When he walked up to the Revival Tent pulpit, he placed his Bible on the middle of its top and on each side of the Bible he placed a pair of revolvers he took from his suit trouser waist band.

    When the services began, the ‘hooraying’ began, first with the usual shouting outside, the banging on tin, etc. . . . and then, as usual, a knife penetrated near the top of the tent wall at the back of the seated congregation . . . and began slicing down the canvas tent wall.
    Bro. George. stopped his sermon, and with a revolver in each hand placed two bullets above head height right above where the knife had penetrated. Things were said to have gotten “REAL QUIET ALL OF A SUDDEN” . . . and the noise from outside did not continue . . . whereupon Pastor George continued his sermon that night without further interruption . . . and each of the following nights of that Christian revival that followed, he having SIMPLY PROVIDED A SIMPLY IMMEDIATE EASILY UNDERSTOOD BY ONE AND ALL to those who has so long been disrupting Church Revival Services., that consistent nuisance problem having been tolerated in past revival efforts by previous pastors who simply a persistent failed to be addressed the easily solved disturbance and in many instances simply closed the revivals.

    Pastor George not only addressed the ‘problem’ but he did so effectively in a manner easily understood by the disrupting
    adversaries. He simply effectively dealt in the only positive proactive manner, having COMMUNICATED IN AN EASILY UNDERSTOOD MANNER THAT THE PASTORS IN PREVIOUS REVIVALS AND THEIR FAILURE ON THE PART OF PREVIOUS PASTORS TO COMMUNICATE IN A ‘LANGUAGE’ READILY UNDERSTOOD BY ONE AND ALL.

    Truly, we over the years since the 1930s ‘40s and ”50s have become a nation of wimps, that apparent the case that appears the case in all areas of ‘endeavor including the ‘”Christians churches”.of this day. i.e, a nation of domestic sheep rather than the wild
    Rams of nature and certainly not a nation of SHEEP DOG PROTECTORS!!!

    A Nation of Cowards

  11. Holly November 16, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

    Will you address and/or clarify carrying in a church that meets at an elementary school for service (in Colorado)?

    • Jacob Paulsen November 16, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

      Holly, in Colorado the statute in question is 18.12.105. The relevant section says:

      A permit issued pursuant to this part 2 does NOT authorize a person to carry a concealed handgun onto the real property, or into any improvements erected thereon, of a public elementary, middle, junior high, or high school;

      There are three exceptions which summarized are:
      1 If the gun remains in your vehicle
      2 If you are employed or retained by contract by a school district as a school security officer
      3 If you are on undeveloped real property owned by a school that is used for hunting or other shooting sports

      So in the case of the school you are referring to can I assume it is a public school? If it is a public school then the short answer is that it doesn’t matter if there is a church meeting or any other community function taking place at the school. It is still the school and it’s real property is still covered by the above statute. If the school is private then the above statue isn’t relevant and the school is just like any other private property able to make any restriction it chooses but obligated to communicate those restrictions to patrons of the property.

  12. Eli December 23, 2016 at 6:19 pm #

    What about Maryland? Can someone with a legal firearm but no CCW carry on church property with the approval of the church leadership?

    • Jacob Paulsen December 24, 2016 at 10:12 am #

      Eli, without a permit having a concealed gun outside of one’s private property is against the law so the question might be, how are you going to get it from your home to the church? Beyond that, the church is private property so with leadership approval I suppose it would be ok, but between your home and the church; without a permit there is no legal way to transport it concealed.

  13. Rick Foster January 10, 2017 at 9:16 pm #

    I do not see the map of blue states and red states attached to the article I am reading. Is Virginia a blue state or red state.

    • Jacob Paulsen January 11, 2017 at 11:10 am #

      Rick, thanks for your comment… I didn’t realize there was something wrong with our map. I fixed the issue and it now is displayed above. Virginia is blue on the map and has no specific church regulation… thus churches act like any other private property in Virginia.

  14. AJ Hernandez January 17, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    My Pastor just asked me to write a legal document concerning concealed carry for children workers (he prefers they do not carry when working with children) and for the general population (protocol when police are on the scene). I have never written a legal document and in dire need of some guidance. Are their templates or examples of legal documentation of concealed carry in a church?

    • Jacob Paulsen January 23, 2017 at 8:43 am #

      AJ, I’ve never written or reviewed just a document but I’m confident that many churches have them in place. You might actually have luck asking the church’s insurance company if they have anything. I know Brotherhood Mutual does a lot in this way of supporting it’s churches.

  15. Brad S. May 12, 2017 at 3:32 pm #

    I live in R.I. & my Pastor has asked me to carry & be part of a security team at our church.
    A couple of guys in a local gun shop told me that with Pastors permission I can carry concealed without a permit, but I can’t seem to find any information “in black & white” & I don’t want to rely solely on someones opinion.
    Can you direct me to such information?
    Thanks for that & all the great information here.

    • Jacob Paulsen May 15, 2017 at 10:54 am #

      Brad, my first thought would be… why not get a permit just to be safe?

      The church is private property so yes I believe that without a permit it is like any other private property in that the owner of that property can make any rules they want if they aren’t in direct violation of any statute or law.

      That said… how do you intend to get the gun from your home to the church without a permit?

  16. Pastor Mike May 27, 2017 at 9:25 am #

    I am a Christian pastor in a small country church in Virginia. We have never had an issue with a threat of violence in the history of the church. But I would like to be prepared in the event of such an incident. I have no problem with anyone in my congregation carrying a concealed weapon and would certainly grant permission for them to do so, but I want to make sure everything is legal (ROMANS 13:1-7). From what I have read, it appears that in Virginia there is no problem in us doing so. But certainly the person must have a permit to do so. Is this correct?

    • Jacob Paulsen May 29, 2017 at 8:15 am #

      Pastor Mike you are correct. In Virginia there is no church specific legal restrictions. Private property is private property and as the acting agent or owner of that property you can make whatever rules you like.

  17. Jean June 20, 2017 at 12:17 am #

    Jacob, thank you because many of your articles tend to be more informative using facts instead of radical mindless opinions. I would like to ask you, Do you think is more good that harm allowing civilian access to semiautomatics fire arms?
    I also like your data graphics, where they are coming from?

    Thank you,

    • Jacob Paulsen June 20, 2017 at 7:25 am #

      Jean, Yes I think it does more good than harm allowing civilians access to semi-automatic firearms. To remove semi-automatic firearms from civilians would mean (in the current firearm market) that we basically all have to defend ourselves with bolt action hunting rifles.

      We mostly make our own graphics internally!

  18. Don June 26, 2017 at 8:53 am #

    In Louisiana I believe there is provision to carry concealed with additional training and permission from the church leadership. We had a security team at our church in LA consisting of LEO’s (both on and off duty) as well as civilians with CHL. The civilians had to take a special training course that was pretty intensive, in addition to their CHL course. The church itself actually sponsored the CHL classes. These additional classes are actually laid out in LA law, but I couldn’t pinpoint it for you at the moment.

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