It happened again. In the news this week, there’s a bleak story about an angry, abusive man who carried a gun into a church and gunned down multiple people. He then kidnapped his children and his estranged wife, fled the scene, and killed his wife before he was taken into custody. The usual news item adds here, “The children were unharmed.” Physically, I suppose that’s true. Emotionally is a different matter.
As I’ve said in other places, carrying a gun is simply my default setting. I don’t need a special, particular reason to carry in any given place. Yet, if you asked me to justify carrying in church, I would probably start by pointing at this week’s headlines. The fact is, bad things can happen anywhere, and to anyone, no matter what they’re doing at the time.
But carrying in church presents certain legal, ethical, and practical dilemmas that merit some discussion.
Let’s start with the legal issue: in several states, it is not legal to carry into a house of worship. I would never advise anyone to break the law. You, and you alone, are responsible for your own choices about when and where to carry, and only you are responsible if you ignorantly or deliberately break the law. 1
The ethics of carrying at church
If you live someplace where it is legal to carry into church, you still must face the ethical question. Lots of people are simply weirded out by the idea of carrying into a place of worship. One friend of mine commented some years ago that she “couldn’t ever” carry a gun, especially at church, because that would mean she didn’t trust God to take care of her. My perspective on that is simply that wherever I go, whatever I do, I either trust God or I don’t. In that sense, the inside of the church building is no different from the inside of the grocery store, my own home, or anywhere else I go.
One of the reasons I am willing to carry a gun in church is because I take the Golden Rule 2 quite seriously. If I were being stalked by an abusive ex-husband, or targeted by an insane former employee, I’d certainly want someone to step in and protect me if I were attacked in a place I’d thought was safe. As a result, I never want to be in a building full of innocent people who are being attacked, and not be able to do anything about it. For me, it would be almost hypocritical to be willing to defend my own life and my own family, and not be willing to do the same for my church family. My conscience wouldn’t let me get away with that. 3
One final comment on the ethical question. I heard a perceptive question about carrying in church awhile back. The question was simply this: If you’re bothered by carrying in church, is it because you’re worried that someone in the congregation might find out and then what would they think of you? Or are you worried about what God would think if you did it?
When I analyzed that question, I realized that my main concerns about carrying in church were not really religious. They were mostly practical and social in nature.
There are several practical issues that surround carrying a concealed firearm into a church building. Remaining concealed is very, very important, both because of the social awkwardness if you get caught, and also because accidentally revealing your carry status could be a distraction or a stumbling block to others in the congregation.
It can be pretty hard to carry on-body in dress clothes. I’m here to tell you that it is not impossible, but it can be difficult until you get the hang of it.
If you ordinarily carry your holster on your belt, you will have to find another way to tote the gun whenever you wear a dress. For my money, the best bet for on-body carry while wearing a dress is a good belly band, though it does require a friendly dress design which allows you to reach the firearm … somehow.
Another option for carrying while wearing a dress is to add a boxy blazer to the outfit, and carry in a shoulder holster. I’ve never done this, but I’ve seen it done and it works pretty well for some figure types.
If instead of a dress, you choose to wear a skirt and blouse combination, you have a lot more options for on-body carry. It is possible — not easy but possible — to find skirts which have wide belt loops. If you’re fortunate enough to come across one of these, you can simply carry on the waist in your usual holster with a sturdy belt. Wear it with an untucked blouse, or tuck your blouse in and add a dressy vest or sweater, or a snazzy jacket, and you’re good to go.
If you cannot find a skirt with wide belt loops, all is not lost. You may simply wear a belly band around your waist, positioned so that the gun rides where it normally does while in your belt holster.
Instead of wearing dresses or skirts, you may opt to wear dress slacks. If so, your options for concealment remain nearly as unlimited as they are in more casual clothes.
Probably the most common way people “get made” is by hugging. Some sweet older lady comes up and gives you a squeeze, then gives you an odd look as she pats your waist. Arrrrgh! Now what?
Before that happens, it’s worthwhile to learn how to hug without getting caught. A few tips:
- When someone comes up to hug you, if you’re holding anything, put it in your gun-side hand. That way if your hugger does feel an unusual lump, they’ll chalk it up to bumping into whatever you were carrying. Get in the habit of carrying your Bible or hymnal in your gun-side hand whenever there’s a chance someone may come up for a hug.
- As the hugger reaches towards you, drop your gun-side hand to around her waist, and put your other hand on or around her shoulder. She will usually mirror your actions, which forces her to put her hand on your gun-side shoulder instead of near your waist.
- If necessary, turn your gun side slightly away from your hugger, so that the hug is more of a side-to-side action than a face-to-face one.
Final comment: although I’m not really keen on the idea of purse carry as an everyday thing, a good carry purse can be a godsend when you have to wear dress clothes. Just be certain that you never set the purse down casually, or leave it within reach of anyone else.
- Where I live, it is perfectly legal to carry into a church. Some church members and some pastors would not like it, so getting caught would be an awkward situation. But that’s all it would be, a social faux pas. See the article titled, “Oops … and Other Sticky Situations” for suggestions how to handle such accidental revelations. ↩
- “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.” ↩
- Of course I am aware that many people feel the exact opposite, and that’s okay. What a boring world it would be if everyone agreed about everything! ↩