BATON ROUGE, La. -- Concealed weapons would be allowed inside churches, synagogues or mosques -- if the religious leaders agree -- under a bill headed to the House floor for debate.
The measure sponsored by Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, passed out of the House Criminal Justice Committee in an 8-3 vote Wednesday.
J. Durell Tuberville, a staff counselor at Shreveport Community Church, said 18 people have been shot in churches in America. With a comprehensive security plan in place, Tuberville said, those people "would be worshipping the Lord instead of pushing up tubers today."
Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport, voted against the bill. "If we can't feel safe in church doing the business of the Lord, where can we feel safe?" she asked.
Churches would be required to notify their congregations in writing if they allow congregants to carry concealed weapons.
The committee also Wednesday backed a bill allowing those with concealed handgun permits to carry their weapons near school campuses.
State law currently bans all guns from coming within 1,000 feet of a school. Those who break that law face a felony charge and a five-year sentence. The bill by Rep. Ernest Wooton, R-Belle Chase, would limit the restriction to on school campuses and school buses.
Wooton said there are so many school campuses in urban areas that those with concealed handgun permits might unknowingly walk near one, breaking the law.
"We don't want to inadvertently make a felon out of someone," Wooton said.
Commissioner of Higher Education Sally Clausen opposed the bill. Several college students sat in the committee room wearing stickers bearing the slogan "funds not guns."
The bill passed with an 8-3 vote. A similar measure awaits debate in the Senate.