This week the MCC voiced opposition to HB 1764, a bill that would require churches to post signs on their premises regarding concealed weapons.
Currently under Missouri law, concealed carry permits do not authorize persons to carry a concealed firearm into a police office, a polling place, a corrections institute, a courthouse, a bar, an airport, a school, a university, a child care facility, a riverboat gambling operation, an amusement park, a stadium, a hospital, or a church.
In some instances, including churches, the permit holder can obtain permission to bring the weapon on to the premises. In most cases, however, these institutions or locations arenot required to post signage regarding conceal and carry weapons. It is up to the permit carrier to know the law and abide by it.
HB 1764, however, would require churches to post such signage, while making no such requirement for the other institutions. The MCC said the proposal unfairly targeted churches for the signage requirement and indicated this may violate the religious freedom protections of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
In general, government can require churches to comply with laws of general applicability when there is a compelling government interest. A local ordinance requiring fire exit signs, for example, would be an appropriate requirement for churches as well other places where the public gathers.
However, there is no compelling interest at stake in HB 1764. The MCC noted that Second Amendment gun rights are important, but so also are the religious freedom protections found in the First Amendment. Stay tuned for further developments.