SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – Do guns belong in churches? That’s a question New York state has been trying to figure out the answer to for a long time.
Back in June, the United States Supreme Court struck down state laws that limited New Yorkers’ ability to carry concealed firearms. After that, the state government was forced to hit the drawing board.
Here’s what they came up with: going forward, guns would be banned in sensitive locations. That term includes schools, parks, government buildings, and places of worship.
The law was passed and went into effect on Sept. 1. Just over a month later, part of the law was already on hold after a lawsuit from two churches in Buffalo. A few weeks after that, a preliminary injunction was placed, keeping the law out of effect for even longer, and that’s where we stand now. Guns are allowed and will continue to be allowed in places of worship, including churches, until the law is reviewed further in court.
So, what was the holdup? Who filed the lawsuits… and why do people want to bring guns to church? Well, it might not be for the reasons that you’re thinking.
“African-Americans have a deep concern for their congregations with these hate groups that are not only growing, but it seems like they’re more bold than ever,” said Carl Clark Jr., the bishop at Open Arms International Ministries in the Lakefront District of Syracuse. “With the increase of hate group memberships, with the increase of hate just in the very atmosphere, that an African-American church would definitely feel like a sitting duck.”
Back in May, ten people were killed and three others were injured in a mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo. Every single victim was black.
Onondaga county legislator Charles Garland said that shooting was just a small part of a dangerous trend.
“A normalization of this like anti-black, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim rhetoric.”
That trend includes events like the shooting in a South Carolina church in 2015 that killed nine black church-goers.
That shooting is one of the reasons there was a lawsuit in New York in the first place. Larry Boyd and Jimmie Hardaway are the two pastors in Buffalo who sued the state over losing their right to carry guns on the job. Both pastors started bringing guns to church because of the South Carolina shooting.
Even though having guns present can be uncomfortable, Garland said that in his experience at his church, the benefits outweigh the negatives.
“We’ve got armed security guards, and you know, it was unsettling at first,” said Garland. “I had to ask if someone was threatened or something like that, but unfortunately, two of the churches that I know, they do have that. It is unfortunate, but it’s better to be prepared.”
The lawsuit that will determine the long-term future of guns in churches hasn’t been decided yet. Bishop Clark from Syracuse is hoping he’ll be able to continue having guns allowed in his church, but until then, he just wants one thing.
“Everybody says ‘God bless America.’ Well, I say God has blessed America, but does America know it? My prayer now is God help America.”