RALEIGH, N.C. – At the beginning of December, a new law expanded allowing people to carry concealed guns in North Carolina. State law now allows people to conceal carry in churches that share property with schools, with some exceptions.
This law has divided reactions across the state, like most gun laws. Some said it’s a win for the "constitutional carry" community, and others believing it won’t make people safer.
Rhonda Allen teaches concealed carry and other gun courses. She’s passionate about making sure her students can protect themselves, and do so safely and legally.
She says safety is the top reason people want to carry a concealed gun.
“We go through at the beginning of a basic pistol course and actually talk about why do Americans want to own guns, why do they want to carry guns? And there's many reasons why, the main reason, and 99% of the time it's for self-defense and to protect themselves and their families,” Allen said.
Allen says this law is the right move.
“There's a lot of false security out there about the fact, ‘Oh I'm in church and supposed to be safe.’ But the reality is it's the building that you're meeting in is no different than any other building, and it's subject to evil,” Allen said.
Allen is a supporter of the law expansion, and so is one of her former students, Mike Santiago.
Santiago is the founding pastor of Focus Church in the Triangle.
When people come to one of his churches, he hopes they “encounter the presence of God like never before, and our second desires that they meet the nicest people in Raleigh.”
He’s excited that churches now have another option for safety. Focus Church has had many homes over the years, which meant the laws around concealed carry varied between locations.
“Now we have a location in a movie theater, a location that's permanent, and then a location that is a leased from a school. So you can obviously know that the, the difference is enormous. One of the great things about this law is that we can feel safer, and one of the things that we desire is that every family that attends Focus Church feels safe no matter what venue, no matter what size, no matter what scale, that they feel safe at any time,” Santiago said.
Not everyone agrees that this law will make churches safer.
The Reverend Doctor Jennifer Copeland is the Executive Director of the North Carolina Council of Churches.
Copeland says members of her organization went to the Legislature to speak against the law when it was going through committees as a bill.
She doesn’t believe more guns are the answer to making the state safer.
“When I think about a healthy North Carolina for my children and the children of others, I think about a place where there are not so many guns floating around in the public that you could get shot accidentally or intentionally because that guns onto the wrong hands,” Copeland said.
The law is not a blanket legalization. There are exceptions.
People can’t concealed carry when the location is being used for school or extracurricular activities. The change doesn’t apply if the school is on property owned by a local board of education or county commission, or if it is a public or private higher education facility.
Churches can also hang signs prohibiting concealed carry on their premises.