RIPLEY, W.Va. – This West Virginia minister packs more than a bible. The Rev. Jack Miller packs heat.
The West Ripley Baptist Church minister's penchant for guns was revealed July 24 when his .38-caliber revolver and an ankle holster were stolen from his desk during a break-in at the church. About $250 in petty cash was also taken.
"I know there's murmuring in the community about why does a pastor have a firearm," Miller said. "I have the same right to bear arms as anybody else."
The former Louisville, Ky., police officer has a permit for the weapon, which he keeps for protection.
During his six years as pastor at the Ripley church, the church and cars in the parking lot have been broken into several times, he said. There have also been times when people came into the church in a "threatening" manner. Miller cites an apparent rise in church arsons all across the state as another reason to keep a weapon handy.
He said he wouldn't keep a gun if he thought there was a chance someone could get hurt. "Because, if you're going to carry one, you better be certain of the large responsibility that comes with it."
The gun's serial number has been provided to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for input into a national database.
Miller said he doesn't expect to get the pistol back but is hoping he does. It was a gift from his father, who taught him how to shoot, hunt and fish.
"I don't really think it's odd that a pastor would hunt, fish and carry a gun," Miller said.
The minister declined to say whether he'll bring another gun into the church.
The Associated Press reported erroneously that the Rev. Jack Miller said he wouldn't keep a gun if he thought there was a chance someone could get hurt. What Miller said was: "If I didn't think there was a chance for something bad to happen to me or someone else that might be in the church, I wouldn't carry it at all."