BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Churches nationwide are beefing up security in the wake of a deadly church shooting in Texas, while Maryland lawmakers and law enforcement are teaming up on a proposed bill to prevent a future tragedy from happening locally.
In recent years, more and more churches across the country have become targets of bloodshed. In November, 26 people were killed in Sutherland Springs, Texas, when a shooter opened fire during services at the First Baptist Church.
“It’s a different day in the age that we’re all living in we see the events from across the country,” says Harford County Sheriff Jeff Gahler.
After being flooded with requests for training and security from concerned churches after the First Baptist Church tragedy, Gahler is proposing a new plan that would let churches decide their security strategy, including allowing some to wear and carry a concealed handgun.
“There’s over 300 churches in Harford County, and at any given time, we’re lucky to have 20 deputies on patrol,” Gahler said during an announcement of the Parishioner Protection Act of 2018 on Tuesday.
Under the proposed bill, certain people could carry firearms in church, but only if they receive permission from the congregation and can legally possess a firearm in Maryland.
Under the proposal, people selected by the church could only carry loaded guns on church property. While headed to church or anywhere else, their guns would still have to be unloaded.
Sen. Wayne Norman is one of the bill’s sponsors.
“This is going to come before the judicial proceedings committee, and we’re going to make sure it gets fairly vetted,” says Norman.
Harford County police says more than 500 people — many of whom are members of local churches — have already signed up for an active shooter training on Thursday.
The bill will be introduced in the 2018 legislative session.