Edgewood, MD – In an effort to help citizens to defend themselves against attacks like the November church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a Maryland sheriff has asked state lawmakers to allow handgun owners to bring their weapons to places of worship.
Hartford County Sheriff Jerry Gahler said that his department was flooded with requests for training and security following the Texas attack, which killed 26 defenseless parishioners, WJZ-TV reported.
“It’s a different day in the age that we’re all living in we see the events from across the country,” Sheriff Gahler said during a Tuesday news conference. “There’s over 300 churches in Harford County, and at any given time, we’re lucky to have 20 deputies on patrol.”
The proposal, dubbed the Parishioner Protection Act of 2018, would allow churchgoers to wear and carry a firearm on the church grounds, provided they obtain written permission from church officials to do so, The Baltimore Sun reported.
Parishioners would also be required to obtain a state handgun license, but would not need a concealed-carry permit.
The measure is contrary to common practice in anti-gun Maryland, where many legislators have proposed tightening the already-strict gun laws that are already in place.
The legislation will be proposed by Republican House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, and state Sen. Wayne Norman, who joined Sheriff Gahler and three local pastors on Tuesday to announce the measure.
“The best way to check a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, who is adequately trained to assess and address a potentially violent situation,” St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Reverent Tommy Allen said.
Rev. Allen noted that anyone authorized to carry a weapon at his church would also be required to work with the sheriff’s office to undergo an “extra layer of training.”
Sheriff Gahler said that over 500 people have signed up to attend an active-shooter training session that the department will host at Mountain Christian Church in Joppa on Thursday.
The bill will be introduced in the 2018 legislative session.