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The Virginia State Senate passed a new bill allowing people to bring their guns to church. The bill passed on a strict party-line vote, 21-19, with every Republican in favor and every Democrat opposed. Republicans also hold a 51-49 edge in the State House, but a similar measure died there last year. Governor Ralph Northam also said he would veto last year’s bill, though he hasn’t commented on the current proposal.
"Psalm 46 said, 'God is our refuge and strength,'" Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr., D, said as he argued against the measure Thursday. "Now we are saying with this bill, we no longer trust in God."
The bill repeals a law thought to date to Colonial times which makes it a misdemeanor to "carry any gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger or other dangerous weapon without good and sufficient reason, to a place of worship" during religious services.
As the News Leader reports, Sen. Richard Black-R, wants to repeal the law. He made note of mass shootings at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012 and at an African Methodist church in South Carolina in 2015 as he pitched his bill on the Senate floor.
"It really sent shockwaves through all churches," he said of the massacres. "These folks are uniquely vulnerable because they're lined up in a church pew; exiting the pew is very difficult. It makes them the ultimate target. ... Either you cower in place or you fight back."
Before the vote, the Senate engaged in an extended debate. Republicans argued that individual churches should decide if they want guns in their pews, while Democrats warned that worshippers could wind up victimized with their own guns. Then came a spin-off debate over Spruill's claim that worshipping while armed belies a lack of faith.
"We ... foolishly took prayer out of schools ... and now we want to take God out of church," Spruill said. "If there's anywhere you can trust God, it should be the church. Let's depend on God on this one. Let's not take God out of church."
Sen. Chap Petersen-D, struck a similar note: "When I walk into a house of worship, it humbles me. You need to act and be your best, and that means putting down your firearm."
Well, in cases where God can’t help — there is always a gun.