The state Senate is being asked to repeal a 140-year-old ban on possessing weapons in a house of worship during a religious service unless there is sufficient reason to do so.
Senate Bill 958 was introduced Tuesday at the General Assembly by state Sen. Amanda F. Chase, R-Chesterfield. It was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is not expected to act favorably on it.
Virginia Code section 18.2-283 forbids carrying a "gun, pistol, bowie knife, dagger or other dangerous weapon, without good and sufficient reason" into a religious service. It is one of the few remaining "Blue" laws on the state books restricting Sunday-related activities.
Weapon possession in a place of worship has been a topic of debate for some time now, and was resurrected in light of recent attacks on a Hebrew study group at a rabbi's house in New York City and a shootout in a Texas church that left two parishioners and the gunman dead.
The Virginia Civilian Defense League, a major gun-rights lobby group in Virginia, is supporting the measure.
"[F]or those places of worship that want to allow for the carry of weapons for security reasons, the repeal will allow them to have a consistent weapons policy that applies 24/7, without needing to be modified or eliminated during a service - the most vulnerable time for an attack," the VCDL says on its website.
Tuesday's introduction is the latest in a barrage of bills from Chase, one of the more ardent gun-rights backers in the legislature, in opposition to Democrats who control both chambers of the Assembly and gained that majority on a promise of stricter gun control in Virginia. Since the Joint Rules Committee adopted a proposal barring the possession of weapons in the state Capitol by lawmakers and citizens, Chase has put forth several measures of her own opposing the gun-control platform. One of the bills would allow local and state government employees -- including lawmakers -- to carry firearms to and from their work places.
On Monday, the Chesterfield Republican introduced Senate Bill 950 that would strip funding of the governor's personal security detail if the governor introduces or supports any legislation that would "deny law-abiding citizens of the Commonwealth their right to carry, possess, or transport a firearm." Gov. Ralph S. Northam, a Democrat, has pressed the legislature for some time to enact stricter gun-control laws.