Remember When North Dakota Lawmakers Were Mocked for Allowing Concealed Carry in Churches?

FBI agents and other law enforcement and crime scene personnel outside the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, where a gunman killed at least 26 people and injured at least 20 more on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (Callie Richmond / copyright 2017 / The New York Times)

A shooter in Sutherland Springs, Texas, opened fire in a Baptist church over the weekend. As I write this, the count is 26 dead and 20 wounded.

The incident has sparked the usual debate over gun control. Which makes about as much sense as debating restrictions on car rentals after an Uzbek man, apparently radicalized by watching ISIS propaganda online, drove a Home Depot truck onto a bike path in Manhattan and killed eight people.

We’re better off talking about why this variety of malcontents – from religious zealots to bigots to the mentally unstable – choose mass murder as a venue for their angst. Is it the infamy we give the perpetrators of these crimes through intense and incessant media coverage? I’d argue yes, but that’s a topic for another post.

The attack in Sutherland Springs was on a church, and the body count might have been higher had one of the church’s neighbors not heard the shooting and fired back with his own weapon.

The shooter was hit by a man described as a “sharpshooting plumber” and died while trying to flee the scene with a hostage. According to early reports, which may or may not prove accurate, the shooter had more weapons and explosives in his car.

In the wake of these shooting incidents the 2nd amendment gets much blame for enabling murderous monsters with access to weapons. But how about the way it enables citizens to defend themselves?

Who knows how much more mayhem he could have perpetrated had an armed citizen not responded?

In the wake of these shooting incidents the 2nd amendment gets much blame for enabling murderous monsters with access to weapons. But how about the way it enables citizens to defend themselves?

Which brings me to the issue of concealed carry in churches.

In years past that was illegal in North Dakota under section 62.1-02-05 of the Century Code which prohibits carry at public gatherings. But in 2013 lawmakers changed the law to allow churches to set their own policy. If church leadership wants to, they can allow properly licensed concealed carry permit holders to carry on their property.

During the 2017 session earlier this year the law was further amended to protect churches from any liability for injury or death resulting from concealed carry on their property.

At least one church – Bethel Lutheran in Fargo – has taken advantage of this loosening of the law to allow specific parishioners to carry weapons during services.

But the partisan reaction to this legislation was about as you’d expect. The legislation itself passed along largely partisan lines, and left wing commentators in the state mocked lawmakers for opening the door to guns in church.

I wonder if the folks in Sutherland Springs wish someone in their church had a gun yesterday?

Maybe someone was carrying in that church, and the fact hasn’t been reported yet. But the larger point holds.

A good person with a gun can stop, or at least slow down, a bad person with a gun.

The knee jerk reaction from many to shootings like this is to blame the 2nd amendment for letting those who would do harm get access to weapons. But not only does that argument suppose that we can enact laws which would stop bad guys from getting guns – we certainly haven’t been very successful at stopping people from getting booze or drugs – but it ignores that the 2nd amendment also enables good people to arm themselves against the bad guys.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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