The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the change in Wisconsin’s concealed carry legislation is causing angst for many churches in Wisconsin. Wisconsin, the 49th state in the U.S. to pass concealed carry legislation, allows churches to post signs on church doors prohibiting the carrying of weapons on church property.
Legal analysts question whether this will increase a church’s liability if a violent deadly force event happens, and parishioners or visitors are unable to defend themselves with a concealed weapon.
The article states, “Religious institutions, like businesses and nonprofits, face one issue government entities do not: Under the law as drafted, according to legal analyses, they lose their blanket immunity from civil lawsuits if they post a sign. But the scope of that immunity is unclear, said Stephen Knowles, an attorney for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Greater Milwaukee Synod. Questions remain, for example, about how it would interact with worker’s compensation laws that offer remedies to employees injured in the course of their jobs. ‘It’s a fairly broad immunity provision,’ said Knowles, who takes no position on the question of posting. ‘This will have to be shaken out through case law, amendments to the statute, prosecutions.'”
While the article states that a majority of the religious institutions in Wisconsin lobbied against the concealed carry law, citing a coalition of religious lobbying groups – the Wisconsin Conference of Churches, the Wisconsin Catholic and Jewish conferences, and Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin – the author does not provide hard numbers to back this claim up.
Instead, she states the clergy interviewed (unknown number) for the story had already posted signs or were planning to do so. Near the end of the story, she quotes a couple of pastors who are choosing to allow their members the option of self protection. One pastor is quoted as saying, “We think it’s kind of an overreaction,” he said. “First and foremost, this is a house of prayer. People know you don’t bring weapons to church.”
Really? I’m not sure criminals really follow rules. And at least one pastor quoted at the end of the story agreed.
Pastor Thomas Price,Spring Creek Church in Pewaukee, said the congregation weighed a number of issues, including liability, before opting not to post. In the end, he said, the consensus was that a concealed weapon could save lives.
“We think the sign could be harmful,” said Price, whose church has an attendance of approximately 1,600 worshippers a week. “Bad people won’t obey it. And good people will – and not carry on the one Sunday we wish they had.”
Although my belief is anyone choosing to carry a firearm for self protection should practice on the range as often as possible, and under realistic combat shooting training scenarios. The idea of someone acting under the auspices of the church on a volunteer team should be able to show extensive combatives training and the ability to accurately shoot while under stress. This is from my perspective as a police officer, your church should consult with an attorney for any legal advice and your insurance company for coverage.