RICHMOND -- Republicans voted Monday to advance a bill that would legalize concealed weapons in places of worship in Virginia.
The Senate Courts of Justice committee voted 7-6 along party lines to advance SB 1024. The bill would repeal a Virginia law that makes it a Class 4 misdemeanor to carry or conceal “any gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger or other dangerous weapon without sufficient reason, to a place of worship.”
Introduced by Sen. Richard Black, R-13th District, the bill is designed to address the “ambiguous” Virginia laws on the use of guns in places of worship, Black previously told the Loudoun-Times Mirror.
“I believe Virginians have the right to protect themselves,” Black stated on his website. “I support the right of competent, law abiding citizens to own arms to defend themselves and their families.”
Black, who represents part of Loudoun and Prince William Counties, is not seeking re-election
The bill recalls President Donald Trump’s assertion in October that armed guards would have prevented the mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
“If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him,” Trump said to reporters.
Eleven were killed during the attack, which was called the “most deadly anti-Semitic hate crime in American history” by the Anti-Defamation League.
Last year, an identical bill was endorsed by Sen. A Benton Chafin Jr., R-38thDistrict. Chafin’s bill successfully passed the Senate, but died in the House.
Some congregations nationally already allow concealed weapons, including The River at Tampa Bay Church in Florida. The church’s decision came in response to the 2017 shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which left 26 dead.
As a means of “warning” individuals, the congregation put up a sign stating that the property is “heavily armed.”
“Yes we are a church,” the sign reads, “and we will protect our people.”
Supporters argue that allowing concealed weapons in places of religious worship is a necessary form of preparation against potential threats. Critics maintain that stricter gun laws would better prevent attacks.
SB 1024 awaits a vote from the full Senate before moving to the House.