New bill could allow an armed person inside New Jersey houses of worship

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A new bill being pushed in Trenton could allow an armed guard inside of houses of worship around the state.

The bill would allow one congregant - who is not a law enforcement officer - the right to carry a firearm inside of a house of worship so that they could be armed in case of an attack.

“Only within that facility, but within that facility, yes. Someone designated by that institution,” says state Assemblyman Gary Schaer.

Schaer says that he hates guns, but says that he agreed to sponsor the bill after four people were killed inside a kosher supermarket in Jersey City in December.

“I had a least a half-dozen, a dozen people call me on that Friday asking if I thought it was safe to walk to synagogue,” he says.

RELATED: Rep. Norcross, Jewish leaders discuss security at houses of worship 
RELATED: New Jersey expands terrorism law in response to kosher market attack 

There have been a number of attacks inside houses of worship across the country over the last several years. In Texas last year, an armed security guard in a church shot and killed a man who was ready to shoot those sitting in pews. In Pittsburgh, 11 were killed at Tree of Life Congregation in 2018.

News 12 New Jersey has learned that there are already people carrying weapons inside houses of worship statewide for safety.

"It saddens me as a Christian because we are supposed to be proclaiming the Prince of Peace. And that no one will be harmed,” says Father Tom Walsh. “But it seems the American society can't get over its obsession with guns."

Walsh says that at his church St. Bartholomew, he had police officers who happen to be congregants bringing guns to Sunday mass. He says that it has made a difference, especially since there is also a school with 300 students.

“You feel so much more secure. And you feel secure seeing the police car,” he says.

Walsh says that he wouldn't feel comfortable with a congregant who is not a police officer being armed. But he also says that he wouldn't stand in the way of smaller congregations who perhaps can’t afford security.

 

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