RICHMOND, Va. — The Virginia Senate has approved legislation that would make it easier to bring a gun to a place of worship.
The GOP-controlled Senate narrowly voted to support the legislation Thursday. The bill would repeal a law that prohibits people from bringing guns and knives to a place of worship during a religious service without a "good and sufficient" reason.
The bill's sponsor Richard Black (R), District 13, said church shootings like the 2015 Charleston church shooting sent shock waves throughout the religious community.
The bill sparked a debate on the Senate floor, Thursday. Senator Lionell Spruill (D), District 5 spoke out against the bill.
"No one has ever said in the church, 'we want to bring our guns to church,'" said Spruill. "When we start doing that then we no longer trust in God and we put trust in the guns."
Chesapeake Senator John Cosgrove (R), District 14, supported the bill, urging lawmakers to let the churches decide.
"Your church has values, my church has values," said Cosgrove. "Let's not try to impose your values on the values of others when it comes to these places of worship."
Democrats say the bill would make places of worship unsafe. Republicans say individual places of worship should be able to make their own decisions about whether to allow guns on site.
The bill still has to pass the House and if it passes, it is likely to be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
In a statement, spokesperson Ofirah Yheskel said:
"The governor strongly opposes this bill and is disappointed to see the General Assembly take up none of the reasonable gun safety measures he proposed at the start of the session, including the extreme risk protection order signed into law by Republican governors and endorsed by President Trump's school safety commission."