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When I was a little boy, I remember the day I accepted Christ. I was 9 years old and responded to an invitation offered by an evangelist. I understood from him that I was a sinner destined for hell unless I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and come into my life. It was a great day for my family and me, until my mother discovered I had brought a deck of playing cards to church in my pocket. While my mother approved of my playing cards at home, she did not approve of them at church.
Today our churches are faced with a greater decision than whether to allow a deck of cards to be brought to church. On January 1, 2016, the Open Carry gun law went into effect. Churches must now decide whether or not to allow people to openly carry their handguns inside the church facilities. Before the new law went into effect, it was possible for the holder of a CHL (Concealed Handgun License) to carry a concealed handgun in a church, unless the church had posted a sign restricting carrying a concealed weapon into its facility.
Churches in Texas now have four options on how to address this new law.
In order to be in compliance with the law, the church must post certain signs in 1-inch block letters. If the church wants to prohibit the carrying of a concealed handgun the sign must read as follows:
Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun.
If the church wants to prohibit the open carrying of handguns the sign must read as follows:
Pursuant to Section 30.07, Penal Code (trespass by license holder with an openly carried handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, chapter 411, Government Code (handgun licensing law), may not enter this property with a handgun that is carried openly.
If a church chooses to post these signs they must be located at each of the entrances to their church. Some churches have chosen to place the appropriate signage outside at their parking lot entrances. Others have chosen to locate signs on the doors or the windows closest to the entrances to the building.
In order for a church to make a well thought out decision, let me offer some suggestions on a strategy to address the issue.
Whatever your local church decides to do about open carry and/or concealed carrying, the policy should be seen as a part of a total security plan. This strategy should include provisions for protecting the church from people that desire to harm individuals within the congregation. This could take the form of a multi-page document with several different layers of protection provided by a security team or it could be a designated person assigned to the job of watching the back door. Churches must decide what they will do regarding the new law. What will the plan look like for your church?