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Mississippi Senate OKs concealed carry, armed security in church

House Bill 786 also maintains that no state official can enforce federal executive orders or administrative rules that violate the constitutions of either Mississippi or the U.S., and this challenges the principle that federal law supersedes state law, The Associated Press reports.

Passage of the bill engendered a good deal of lively debate. Carrying a sheathed sword and quoting the Bible, Sen. Hillman Frazier (D-Jackson), argued against passing the bill, The Clarion-Ledger notes. Proponents of the bill also quoted Scripture, and even referred to the Five Man Electrical Band (“signs, signs, everywhere signs”) as they killed an amendment requiring churches with armed security to put up signs.

“We don’t need to pimp the church for political purposes,” Frazier said. “If you want to pass gun laws, do that, but don’t use the church.”

The Clarion-Ledger notes that the bill would require churches to provide training for armed security and members who wish to carry concealed weapons, and would also provide criminal and legal protection to anyone serving as church security.

Supporting the bill’s passage, Sen. Sean Tindell, (R-Gulfport) said “This will allow a church to have a sergeant-at-arms to protect the church body, just like we have (in the Legislature).”

And Tindell got his way. The Senate approved the measure in a 36-to-14 vote, thus sending it along to the House, The Washington Post reports.

Chris Cox, head of the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm lauded the decision.

“This important piece of pro-gun legislation clarifies existing law in Mississippi and ensures that each Mississippian has the right to carry their firearm in the manner that best suits them,” he said.

The Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police isn’t on board with this decision, however.

Executive Director Ken Winter said the association doesn’t believe it’s a good idea for people to carry concealed weapons without any training. He noted it could contribute to the threat officers face.

“By effectively dismantling Mississippi’s licensing system, this bill would block law enforcement who stop an armed suspect from confirming that he isn’t a violent criminal, severely mentally ill or otherwise dangerous,” Winter said, according to The Huffington Post. “This bill would put law enforcement officers and all Mississippians directly in harm’s way.”

The Secular Coalition for America also weighed in, calling it “the worst bill in America.”

“This legislation would put ‘soldiers of God’ above the law, allowing them to act as judge, jury and executioner,” said executive director Larry T. Decker, in a statement.

He continued:

“Religious institutions are already exempt from taxation, financial transparency and many civil rights laws. The Mississippi Church Protection Act would constitute an unprecedented and dangerous next step. Belonging to a church should not afford anyone the same rights and protections as law enforcement. This legislation emboldens extremists by creating a legal means for radical preachers to enlist their congregants into ‘God’s army.'”

The Senate vote is a “dangerous setback” that may dismantle Mississippi’s concealed carry permit system, said Shirley Hopkins Davis, of the Mississippi chapter of Moms Demand Action.

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