A bill that would allow Virginians to go to church armed with more than just the Word of God passed in the Virginia State Senate Friday, in a 21 to 19 vote. Every Republican senator voted to repeal a Virginia law that makes carrying a weapon into a “place of worship” a misdemeanor.
From The Washington Post:
The bill repeals a law thought to date to Colonial times that makes it a misdemeanor to “carry any gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger or other dangerous weapon without good and sufficient reason, to a place of worship” during religious services.
The Senate passed the measure 21 to 19, with every Republican in favor and every Democrat opposed. It now heads to the House, where similar measures died in committee last year.
The Post adds that, according to a statement from Gov. Ralph Northam’s spokesperson, the governor opposes the legislation. In recent weeks, Northam has proposed a slew of gun control proposals, from an “assault weapon” ban to extreme risk protection orders to banning firearms that hold magazines that can hold ten or more rounds.
Despite Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam pushing a gun control agenda, Virginia Republicans in the Senate and the House of Delegates have held their ground, not allowing Democratic gun control bills to pass.
According to The Post‘s reporting, the debate over the legislation became even more heated as both sides quoted scriptures from the Bible to support their positions. Democratic member Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake) went so far as to state that bringing firearms or other weapons into places of worship was equivalent to taking “God out of church.” Other Democratic members equated bringing firearms to church as having a “lack of faith” in God.
On the other side, Republicans argue that religious leaders should have the option to decide whether or not they will allow firearms in their congregations. Mass shootings at places of worship over recent years have caused many religious communities to consider allowing members to come armed. In 2012, the Oak Creek shooting at a Wisconsin Sikh temple left six dead. In 2015, the Charleston church shooting left nine churchgoers dead. In 2017, the Sutherland Springs church shooting left 26 dead and 20 others injured. And in late 2018, there was the anti-Semitic attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that left 11 dead.
“I do not accept that God abandons those who are armed,” Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) said, according to The Post.
Unfortunately, gun-rights advocates shouldn’t get their hopes up. As The Post notes, a similar bill failed to pass in the House of Delegates last year. And, even if the bill does pass in the House, as mentioned earlier, Gov. Northam isn’t expected to sign it into law, given his staunch support for gun control.