North Carolinians Against Gun Violence is opposing the Freedom to Worship Safely, H652, passed on June 19th by the state Senate because it would legalize carrying concealed firearms at religious places of worship with associated schools.
State law allows concealed firearms at religious places of worship except when there is an associated school in order to better protect school children. NCGV believes that still is sound public policy. Removing this protection puts school children at increased risk regardless of whether the firearms are allowed at the school itself.
“We oppose H652. It circumvents state policy outlawing concealed carry of firearms on school grounds and would put school children at more risk of gun violence,” said NCGV Executive Director Becky Ceartas. “State law applies to both public and private school property and makes no exception for schools owned and operated by places of worship for a simple reason: it endangers school children.
“The fact that weapons would be allowed at the place of worship with schools but not at the associated school itself on the same property practically amounts to a distinction without a difference,” Ceartas added.
Bill proponents argue that it just aligns places of worship with schools and places of worship without schools in allowing concealed weapons. It’s not that simple. Most worryingly, H652:
- increases the risk of serious injury to school children. There are many documented instances of firearms owners accidentally leaving their firearms behind on school grounds in restrooms, classrooms, and gymnasiums. Allowing concealed weapons at religious places of worship with schools increases the risk of them being discharged by intent or by accident.
- legitimizes further expansion of weapons at schools by chipping away at the prohibition of guns on school property. It effectively sets a precedent for private schools unaffiliated with religious places of worship to argue that they also should be exempt from the firearms prohibition. (NCGV opposes guns in all K-12 schools.)
The current law that allows people to carry firearms into religious places of worship not associated with a school is also dangerous. At a minimum, places of worship should be required to “opt-in” to concealed carry so that people know which religious places of worship allow firearms. At present the default requires religious places of worship to “opt out”. H652 also would require opting out.
NCGV opposes any legislation that weakens our state’s gun laws. 1,416 people were killed with firearms in NC in 2018 according to the CDC. We need stronger gun laws to protect all North Carolinians from gun violence. Unfortunately, H652 goes in the wrong direction.