RICHMOND, Va. - A bill repealing a state law prohibiting weapons in a place of worship during a religious service passed the Virginia Senate Thursday.
The former state law mandates that “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.”
The new bill repeals that prohibition against bringing weapons to a house of worship. Supporters of the bill say congregants may need weapons to defend themselves from an attack, pointing to incidents such as a November 2017 mass shooting at a Baptist church at Sutherland Springs, Texas, that left 26 people dead.
Reverend Anthony Paige of First Baptist Church on W. 38th Street in Norfolk says he is in favor of the bill. He says his church has already had different types of training, including active shooter scenarios.
“When you bury people who have been shot down in the streets or shot down even in your churches, you have a different attitude. I think that the leaders are doing the right thing - if no more than to raise the issue to discuss the issue. It’s better than to be silent," says Reverend Paige.
The House still has to vote on the bill before it can cross the governor's desk.