Bipartisan bill aims to let NJ houses of worship arm themselves
Following a series of attacks at places of worship across the United States in recent years, a state lawmaker wants to make it easier for houses of worship to arm themselves.
A measure proposed by Assemblyman Ron Dancer, R-Monmouth, would allow for the governing body of a place of worship to establish a security program, which would include having one person selected to carry a handgun.
“The point of this legislation is that while we cannot eliminate every risk we can reduce it,” said Dancer.
“Let’s face it, in the world we’re living in today evil exists and mental illness exists, and we need to protect ourselves, and worshippers, of all people should not be defenseless.”
Dancer pointed to the November 2017 slaughter of 26 worshipers in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the 2018 slaying of 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburg and the killings of two people last year at the West Freeway Church of Christ in the Fort Worth, Texas region.
"The carnage must stop,” Dancer said.
A place of worship is defined in the legislation as including but not limited to a church, mosque or synagogue, used primarily as a place of public or private worship on a permanent basis by a recognized and established religious sect or denomination registered as a not-for-profit.
Dancer said if a religious institution wanted to have an armed guard on site, “this individual would need to participate in firearms training held by the police training commission or the director of civilian marksmanship.”
The legislation says that appropriate training could also be completed under the direction of a recognized rifle or pistol association that certifies instructors.
The legislation specifies the person selected to be an armed guard would be allowed to transport his or her firearm directly to and from their residence and the place of worship.
The selected person would be subject to all other requirements imposed under current law regarding the right to carry a firearm.
Dancer said he's optimistic that the legislation would get the signature of Gov. Phil Murphy, who is an ardent supporter of strict gun control legislation.
“I believe the governor will be objective and do everything he can to protect lives,” said Dancer. “No one wants to be in a position where there was inaction to prevent the carnage of the worshippers in this state.”
The co-sponsor of the bill is Assemblyman Gary Schaer, Democrat from Passaic.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com