RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - The Virginia Senate has passed legislation aimed at allowing guns in church in the wake of a deadly church shooting in Texas.
The Republican-controlled chamber voted along party lines Tuesday to approve the measure, which would repeal a state law prohibiting weapons in a place of worship during a religious service.
Sponsored by Republican Senator Ben Chafin, a spokesperson from his office said they were flooded with requests from local law enforcement and faith leaders that wanted to conceal and carry when they went to church.
However, President of the Unitarian Church of Norfolk Allen Perry said he’s concerned about public safety if the bill becomes law.
“What happens when we do have an active shooter in a church and three civilians who have who knows what kind of training, maybe they went to the range once when they got their concealed weapons permit, maybe they haven’t been back since, start firing off rounds in a crowded sanctuary?” asked Perry. “How many innocent people are going to be killed by that?”
A spokesperson from Senator Chafin’s office said the proposed bill would simply give churches and places of worship the option if they want to allow guns or dangerous weapons inside.
A state Attorney General's opinion from 2011 says current law already allows Virginians to carry guns in churches, subject to a church's permission. But GOP Sen. Ben Chafin, the bill's sponsor, said the legislature needed to clarify and cement the right to carry a gun in church into law if a church allows it.
Governor Northam said he would veto the bill if it passes in the House. Spokesperson Charlotte Gomer said, “He is eager to work with the General Assembly to reduce gun violence, but he does not believe that adding more guns to more locations is the right approach.”
Last year, a gunman opened fire during a Sunday service at a Baptist church in Texas, killing more than two dozen worshippers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.