SC representative proposing new concealed weapons bill for churches

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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – South Carolina Rep. Alan Clemmons is proposing a new concealed weapons permit that could remove all liability from churches or religious sanctuaries.

It is currently legal for a person to bring a gun to church, if given permission by the appropriate church official.

The proposed bill Clemmons prefiled Thursday is written to say if a permit holder is allowed to bring the firearm, then the church, synagogue or other religious organization is not civilly or criminally liable.

Ultimately, Clemmons wants to encourage safer places of worship.

“I don’t think by eliminating access to weapons you are truly going to stop the psychopaths that have a death wish. I think the best way to prevent something terrible from happening here in South Carolina it is to have fewer gun-free zones to start with,” he said. “To encourage gun-free zones at places of worship, in my mind, is an encouragement to those who would do evil to come there and work their acts of evil.”

Clemmons said that after the FBI stopped a planned mass shooting from happening at the Temple Emanu-el in Myrtle Beach, which led to 29 year old Benjamin McDowell’s arrest, he felt like it was his duty to re-evaluate the concealed weapons permit.

“I visited with that congregation not long after that and they had hired security guards and had a plan in place, and I started thinking at that time what can South Carolina do in churches and synagogues around the state to show we stand united with them?” Clemmons said. “In looking at the concealed weapons permit law, I was reminded of that debate that occurred years ago.”

Clemons added that a lot of people are clamoring for gun control in light of the Texas church shooting, but he believes it’s wrong. He hopes to encourage more pastors, priests and rabbis to allow concealed weapons on their premises.

Jamie Barfield, senior pastor at Palmetto Pointe Church, said he does allow people to carry at his church if they have signed a waiver and shown proof of their permit.

“A lot of churches are nervous of the liability of it, but we have a really good insurance policy (that) allowed us to talk through a process with them of how to make sure we are protected, but also make sure our people are protected as well,” Barfield said.

For added protection, Barfeild said after the 2015 Charleston church shooting carried out by Dylann Roof, Palmetto Pointe Church created a security team made up of six people for every service who are trained and carry.

“I have my concealed weapons permit and going through the class, you know you are liable. You’re the one carrying and liable for any situations, so for me this keeps the liability for the person that’s carrying and frees the church of any liability,” he said.

Barfield added that he is pleased with the proposed bill.

“I think it definitely allows protection for the church and the officials of the church, and anything to give us protection in crazy situations is a good thing,” he said.

Clemmons said there are two dates for prefiled legislation and the bill won’t be considered until the legislature meets in January 2018. The bill will then go through a public comment process and then must pass through the House and Senate.

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