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Dear Friends,

Two days into this year’s legislative session, the Guns in Churches bill has reared its’ head again. The Peace and Justice Committee of The Diocese of West Missouri is urging members of The Diocese of West Missouri to submit online testimony to the General Laws Committee of the Missouri House of Representatives to ask them to oppose House Bill 1708 when it is heard on Tuesday at 2:00. You may remember that this bill passed the House and Senate last session and only the disorganization in the last weeks of session kept it from being passed by the full legislature.

If you wish to testify in person, please contact me ASAP and I can help you write testimony and coordinate it. We would love to have a representative from The Diocese of West Missouri testifying against this bill in person.

Missouri law currently automatically bans concealed weapons from houses of worship unless an individual receives “the consent of the minister or person or persons representing the religious organization that exercises control over the place of religious worship.” It also allows a firearm in the parking lot of a place of worship as long as it remains in the car and is not brandished.

This bill repeals that section in its entirety, and the only way a church could restrict concealed carry holders in their sanctuary is to post a sign minimum size 11”x14″ near their sacred space. Also, HB 1708 allows those with concealed carry permits to carry their weapons on public transportation – buses, streetcars, Metrolink in St. Louis – and loosens the qualifications to receive a concealed carry permit at the same time.

We are asking lawmakers on the committee to vote against this bill when it is heard on Tuesday. To submit testimony, click on this link and submit your testimony before 10 am Tuesday morning. If you are clergy who serves a church in Missouri, but resides across the state line, use your place of work as your address, as your voice is important to be heard. Sample testimony from when this bill was heard last year under a different numbers can be found at the bottom of this email. Emily Weber, who represents Kansas City, Missouri on the committee as a gun sense advocate, highly recommended that in addition to submitting testimony, you email your testimony to all members of the committee. While the testimony may not be read in the hearing, having strong anti-guns in churches testimony on the record allows for it to be quoted in floor debate if it passes out of committee.

This is the committee with their emails:

Representatives Ingle, Crossley, Mackey, Meredith and Weber are expected to support our position. Ingle, Crossley, McMullen and Weber are from the Kansas City area, so if they are your representative, please be sure to note you are a constituent when you email the testimony to them.
Rep. Alex Riley (Chair), Rep. Justin Hicks (Vice Chair), Rep. Keri Ingle (Ranking Minority Member, Lee’s Summit), Rep. Ben Baker, Rep. Ron Copeland (Northwest Missouri, Salem), Rep. Aaron Crossley (Independence, member of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church), Rep. Brad Hudson, Rep. Doyle Justus, Rep. Tony Lovasco, Rep. Ian Mackey, Rep. Mark Matthiesen, Rep. Aaron McMullen (Independence), Rep. Peter Meredith, Rep. Jeff Myers, Rep. Cameron Parker, Rep. Renee Reuter, Rep. Emily Weber (Kansas City, Missouri from downtown to the Plaza).

I know this is a lot of information, but I hope we can all take action and stop this dangerous bill from progressing! Please forward this to all of your friends and encourage them to take action as well. For any questions, feel free to contact me.

In Peace,
Tara Bennett
Chair, Peace and Justice Committee

Example Emails

“Hi. My name is [Insert name]. I live in [Insert city/town]. I am a member of [Insert church] and I’m writing to ask members of the committee to vote against House Bill 282 and not allow guns in churches or on public transportation. This bill is a reckless proposal that would threaten the sanctity and security of churches across our state. There is no evidence to support the notion that flooding sensitive spaces with guns will eliminate gun violence. Not is there a reason to purposely place churchgoers in danger by allowing anyone, even strangers to carry a loaded handgun into their place of worship. The potential ramifications of enacting this bill could cause more harm to our communities. Please do not pass HB 282 or move from committee. Instead focus on supporting common sense gun laws  that would actually protect our families from gun violence.
“My name is Rev. Mary Haggerty and I serve an Episcopal congregation in Kirkwood, Missouri. I also serve the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri as the Missioner for Gun Violence Prevention. I am writing in opposition to HB 485, which would allow concealed carry of firearms in places of worship. Missouri law currently automatically bans concealed weapons from houses of worship unless an individual receives “the consent of the minister or person or persons representing the religious organization that exercises control over the place of religious worship.” This is important to me as a minister who has responsibility for my congregation. A religious community should be able to decide for itself if they desire for individuals to bring guns into their holy place. But HB 485 would make the carry of a concealed weapon in my church setting the default. Individuals with a concealed carry endorsement or permit could automatically bring a firearm into a house of worship unless that religious group posted significant signs at every entry. A church, synagogue, mosque, or other house of worship would not be able to determine its own policy regarding concealed guns without either accepting weapons or posting government-mandated signs on their sacred space. HB 485 clearly crosses the line of separation of church and state. Our constitution protects citizens’ right to practice their religion as they please, so long as the practice does not run afoul of a “public morals” or a “compelling” governmental interest. This bill takes away the right of clergy and religious communities to determine how they will worship in their private spaces. Government control has no place in our houses of worship. Please oppose HB 485.”

“Vote NO on HB 282. The Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC) respectfully opposes HB 485. Under current Missouri law, gun owners with a concealed carry permit are prohibited from carrying a weapon into a church without permission of their pastor. Missouri properly recognizes that churches are spaces in which guns have no place as a matter of public policy. They are appropriately considered gun-free zones, because they are spaces where we meet for worship. HB 485 changes this paradigm. It makes churches places gun owners can lawfully carry, rather than recognizing them in law as gun free spaces. Churches wishing to remain gun-free would be required to post signage in a conspicuous place. In the case of churches, this signage would likely have to be posted near the sacred space of worship. The MCC views this as an inappropriate and unnecessary intrusion upon religious freedom, which is guaranteed under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The MCC recognizes that we now live in a society where legally recognized gun-free zones will not always protect innocent people from gun violence. Churches are free under current law, however, to address these situations by establishing security protocols tailored to meet their situation. The MCC believes this is a more appropriate way to address the current proliferation of gun violence than removing churches from the list of places guns are not permitted. The Missouri Catholic Conference urges you to vote HB 485 “DO NOT PASS.”

“As a clergy person, these bills horrify me. Both practically and morally, these bills do a disservice to both worshipers and to the spirit of community in which they come to worship. Practically speaking, we have seen a wave of violence stem through this country as houses of worship have been attacked by people seeking to do evil by bringing weapons to bear on people at prayer. My community, in particular, still bears scars of synagogue attacks at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, PA (2018), the Chabad of Poway, CA (2019), and Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX (2022). Our community leaders get almost weekly security briefings from our community partners and partners in law enforcement about credible threats to houses of worship. We already need to hire extra security to keep our gatherings safe out of a fear of people doing exactly what these bills would allow them to do: bring weapons into our houses of worship. More than this, however, my community comes to pray together through the tradition we have inherited over the past four thousand years. It is a tradition that holds up as sacred the words of the Prophet Isaiah, who bade all people to “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war” (Isaiah 2:4). Our tradition goes further in Jewish law to forbid the carrying of a weapon while gathering in prayer or on the Sabbath, even for ornamentation, as was common for swords in the ancient world (Mishna Shabbat 6:4). For us to allow weapons into our house of worship would prevent us from living up to this creed, would sanction the tools of violence and war in our houses of peace, which cannot be considered anything but an infringement on our Constitutional rights to freely practice our religion. In addition, red flag laws have been shown to be a public good, stopping people who have proven through their words and actions that they pose a real threat to others. Just as someone can be detained for making threats of public harm, so too should someone who is a proven threat to themselves or others be prohibited from accessing the means to carry out that harm. Individual liberties are not limitless, and these proposed bills put the rights of individuals to own guns against the rights of all of their fellow citizens to pray and exercise religion freely, to live in safe communities, and to safeguard their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. I believe that these rights, too, must not be infringed upon. It is this first and most critical task of this government, any government, to protect its people. These bills would do real harm to the people in my community. They would be psychologically damaging, morally repugnant, and open the door to the ongoing attempts to harm our people that we have worked so hard to close day after day. PLEASE TAKE MY RIGHTS AND THE RIGHTS OF MY CONGREGANTS AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS JUST AS SERIOUSLY AS THE RIGHTS OF GUN OWNERS. Thank you for your consideration.


Rabbi Scott Shafrin
Associate Rabbi, Kol Rinah
Clayton, MO”

Tara Bennett is chair of the Peace and Justice Committee. A member of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, she is also an active volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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