Columns » John Brummett

Packing in church, revisited

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My recent e-mail has gone pretty much like this, if you'll permit a composite:

“I used to think you had some sense, but not anymore. Are you seriously for this bill to allow concealed guns in church? Let me tell you something, buddy boy: The first time I find out that somebody in my worship service is packing a gun, that's when I'll find myself another church. You need to go stick your head through an MRI machine.”

Well, ma'am, and sir, this bill, if enacted, would leave the matter to your church. So what you should do is speak with your deacons or elders or bishops or whatever kind of governance your flavor imposes.

And if you're a fan of irony, as I am, please observe the emotionalism of the one accusing the other of lacking sense.

This all reminds me of the time Texas was getting ready to execute a woman. Many expressed outrage that a state would kill a female. I thought at the time: What is this? Are you for the death penalty or not? Or are you only for killing males?

Maybe it's the death penalty that troubles us, not merely its application to a female. And maybe it's the handgun that bothers us, not just its concealed presence in church.

Church buildings offer a crutch, a convenient excuse for expressing an otherwise unpopular position. You folks are harboring some repressed liberalism out there. Yet you lack the courage to express it fully.

But you say your objection is narrowly specific to the grotesque, outrageous idea of letting anyone carry a gun into God's house.

It's all God's house. He loves the victim in the ‘hood as much as he loves the victim in the pew.

Logic, reason, certainly consistency — they're on my side.

We're schizophrenic to allow concealed handguns and then ask those duly licensed to carry them to keep putting them down — somewhere. We say they may carry them into restaurants serving booze, but not into bars.

Let's say you have this good ol' boy, a salt-of-the-Arkansas-earth fellow, whose cultural influences lead him to carry a licensed concealed weapon and who, one night a week, goes to his church — also from his cultural influences — to volunteer janitorial work to get the sanctuary spiffy for Sunday.

Apparently my critics support his right to carry his concealed firearm on his person all the way to the parking lot of the church. But they wouldn't permit him to take it inside. They want him to leave it concealed in the car.

Personally, I'd prefer that the gun be in his pocket next to his body while he vacuums and mops. That would be better than forcing him to leave it in a lone car on a darkened lot. Many more cars are vandalized than guns wrested from licensed carriers.

By the way: Do you know how many persons licensed to carry concealed weapons in Arkansas have had those licenses revoked for taking them somewhere not allowed or using them inappropriately? That would be none.

The fellow who gets a license to carry his gun tends not to be the fellow you need to worry about. The scary guy is the one who doesn't mind a misdemeanor charge of carrying an unlicensed concealed weapon. That's because he has felonies on his mind.

Finally, allow me to invoke one of our most precious principles, that of separation of church and state.

More than 40 states have some fashion of concealed-carry laws and the great majority of them decline to make any reference whatever to churches. This silence is blissful, appropriate, golden, constitutional.

But here in Arkansas we had to go and make ourselves feel righteous by putting a church exception into our concealed carry law. It's yet another irony: We decry meddlesome government even as we insist on imposing it.

So now we look like a Wild West show — we're Leno fodder — for trying to undo something we shouldn't have addressed remotely in the first place.

Like many issues, this one falls victim in public rhetoric to emotion and oversimplification. Its superficial implication (“guns in church; oh my God!”) is much worse than its meaningful substance.

I agree with my critics on one thing. They say guns don't mix with churches. I say that goes for laws.

Take churches out of this law and then leave them alone to do as their theology teaches without any presumed regulation either way. There's a logical solution for you.

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