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Politics & Government

Senate: 'Yes' to guns in churches, 'no' to guns in schools

The State Senate has approved a measure to allow the carrying of a gun with a concealed weapons permit in a church – if the church allows it.

That was one of a series of gun-related bills before the Senate. This bill had a “do not pass” recommendation from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Sen. Stan Lyson (R-Williston) is a former Williams County Sheriff. He said supporters of the bill worried that a church – as a gun-free zone – might become a spur of the moment target for a mass shooting, such as the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school or at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

"These attacks were all planned in advance," said Lyson. "Nobody just pops up and starts shooting. So what are we worried about in our churches? I have no idea."

Sen. Connie Triplett (D-Grand Forks) voted for the bill. She says while she voted against the other bills – including one that would have allowed a school employee to carry a weapon, with permission of the school board – she respects the separation of church and state.

"I'm not going to choose here how to tell churches how to run their operations," Triplett said. "People go to church voluntarily, which is different from public schools, where we require our children to attend school."

That bill passed 28-17. It now goes to Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

Senators defeated a measure to allow a school district employee to carry a concealed weapon in the school – with permission of the school board. Supporters of the bill had argued that schools are a target for mass shootings – such as what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. But Sen. David Hogue (R-Minot) said that doesn’t seem to be the case.

"They (mass shooters) all had some kind of mental infirmity," said Hogue. "And they, for the most part,  had the desire to seek their 15 minutes of fame."

Sen. Bill Bowman (R-Bowman) argued for the bill.

"I grew up in an area where some of our smaller communities had no law enforcement," said Bowman. "If someone came in and started shooting the kids in that school, how many would they shoot before someone would get there to protect them?"

The bill failed 27-18. Senators also rejected measures to allow people with concealed carry permits to have guns in public gatherings, and to prohibit police from enforcing newly-enacted federal gun laws.

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