RICHMOND, Va. — A bill that has been introduced in the Virginia House of Delegates to clear the way for citizens who can legally carry a gun to bring one to church services has local support, but has been rejected before by the General Assembly.

Del. John McGuire, R-56th District, is the patron of House Bill 373, which would repeal a code that says, “If any person carry any gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger or other dangerous weapon, without good and sufficient reason, to a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held at such place he shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”

If repealed, any Virginia resident who has a concealed carry permit could tote one into church services.

Del. James W. “Will” Morefield (R-Tazwell County) said he hopes the bill to repeal that code will pass.

“I will strongly support the bill and any others that will strengthen our 2nd Amendment right to bear arms,” he said. “The most recent tragedy in Texas is further proof that when law bidding citizens carry firearms lives can be saved.”

Morefield was referring to the Dec. 29, 2019 incident in White Settlement, Texas when members of the congregation carrying weapons shot and killed a gunman who opened fire in church, killing two members of the congregation before he was shot by churchgoers who were members of the church’s security team.

The Texas legislature had passed a law that authorized anyone with a concealed-carry license to bring their weapon into houses of worship. That law was a response to the 2017 attack on a church in Sutherland Springs that left 26 people dead and 20 wounded before a local resident shot the gunman outside the building and forced him to flee.

Tazewell County Eastern District Supervisor Charlie Stacy agrees with Morefield.

“I firmly believe people should be able to conceal carry in a church,” Stacy said. “the recent case in Texas should speak for itself. Coming from a law enforcement background I firmly believe as we did with the schools that an armed person is the best defense against an armed bad guy.”

Mike Hymes, Southern District Supervisor, is also backing the bill.

“I support residents’ ability to carry anywhere provided they have the proper training,” he said. “This is why our recent board resolution included funding for concealed carry classes and youth training.”

Hymes said a trained person with a weapon is a “very important resource no matter where a threat occurs.”

“If you noticed the most recent shooting in the Texas church, their security team was properly trained to manage the threat,” he said.

A bill to repeal that code, which has been on the books since the 1950s, was passed by Republican-controlled Senate last year but died in the House Rules Committee.

Democrats, however, control both the Senate and House this year and have already presented several gun control proposals.

— Contact Charles Boothe at cboothe@bdtonline.com

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