WASHINGTON – Citing a number of recent massacres involving religious institutions around the country, the Virginia Senate passed a bill Thursday that would allow people to carry guns into churches.
The legislation would repeal a law that prohibits firearms and other weapons in places of worship.
Sen. Dick Black, R-Loudoun, pointed to a South Carolina church shooting that left nine worshippers dead in 2015.
“It really sent shockwaves through all churches,” he said.
More than two dozen were killed in a Texas church shooting in 2017, and 11 were gunned down at a Pittsburgh synagogue last year.
“Either you cower in place or you fight back,” Black said, calling unarmed worshipers, “the ultimate target.”
Opponents argued that religious institutions would be safer with fewer guns.
“The faith communities really don’t want this,” said Democratic Sen. Barbara Favola, who represents Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun counties. “I think we should go back to relying on our churches being these places of refuge.”
The legislation now heads to the House. If it passes there, it is likely to be vetoed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.
A similar bill passed through the Virginia Senate last year but did not make it through the House.