The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ chapels will remain safe for those attending worship services thanks to the presence of Latter-day Saint law enforcement officers allowed to carry guns at church, say local sheriffs.
The recent church announcement emphasizing its no-gun policy caused concern that it would turn worship facilities into sitting ducks for those hell-bent on shooting up churches.
“I disagree with them. In this area, there’s usually a law enforcement guy that goes to church with you,” Madison County Sheriff Rick Henry said. “The other thing is there’s going to be people that come to church anyway with a firearm. No one will ever know. That’s the reality of it.”
To carry a concealed handgun, Idahoans must be at least 21 years old and be a U.S. citizen. There is no permit required to carry a rifle, shotgun or handgun. The state only bans those guilty of violent crimes from owning guns, reports the Idaho legislative website.
It adds that guns are not permitted in courthouses, juvenile detention facilities, prisons, jails, schools and airports.
Yet, just because guns are banned in places, it doesn’t mean people won’t still carry them — even at church, Henry said.
“We live in Idaho. The community we live in — there’s going to be people who have firearms,” he said.
Henry’s own LDS church ward proves to be one of the safer churches to attend in the Upper Valley. He brings his gun with him, as do four other officers attending there.
Henry encourages his deputies to take their guns with them wherever they go.
“They are always armed whenever they’re on or off duty. If you have a law enforcement officer who goes to church with you, he’s carrying a firearm,” he said.
Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries also urges his deputies to keep their guns with them continuously.
“It’s for their safety. It doesn’t matter where they are. It’s not mandatory, but I encourage it — no matter if they’re going to a concert, ballgame or church or whatever — just in case,” he said.
LDS church spokesman Daniel Woodruff told the Salt Lake Tribune that the church had added stricter wording to its gun policy at church.
“Churches are dedicated for the worship of God and as havens from the cares and concerns of the world. With the exception of current law enforcement officers, the carrying of lethal weapons on church property, concealed or otherwise, is prohibited,” the policy states.
The Tribune article expressed concern about church facilities becoming soft targets for criminals. It also pointed out that the church’s chapels have experienced shootings such as one in July in Fallon, Nevada, where one man was killed and another wounded.
“There have been gun incidents — even deadly ones — at Latter-day Saint meetinghouses through the years,” it reported.
Following the Standard Journal story on the church’s updated gun policy, its Facebook page lit up with numerous comments. They ranged from “great decision by Church leaders” to “Our whole ward carries except (for) some primary kids.”
Other expressed concern about making the decision known via the media.
“I think that should have been brought up during Sunday service and not announced publicly. Putting an ‘unarmed victims inside’ sign over each (church) may not have been the smartest decision given today’s mindset,’” reads the post.
As for the church’s gun policy, Humphries said that the church, like any other private property, has the right to ban guns from inside its worship facilities.
“That’s they’re choice. I respect that,” he said.