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Do more guns ensure safety or raise concerns for churchgoers?

Two New York pastors discuss both sides of the issue—to be armed or not to be armed during church service.
Do more guns ensure safety or raise concerns for churchgoers?
Posted at 8:30 PM, Nov 12, 2023

A survey of Protestant congregations in the U.S. found that more than 50% rely on a member being armed during services as part of their security preparations. 

The survey of 1,000 pastors released by Lifeway Research earlier this year also found that one in five churches prohibits weapons.

Now two New York pastors are talking about both sides of the issue—to arm or not to arm?

If it's Sunday, you can bet that Rev. Jimmie Hardaway Jr. is heading to work.

He is a pastor of the Trinity Baptist Church in Niagara Falls, New York, bringing the word of the Lord and a .380 caliber semiautomatic pistol to protect himself and his congregation.

"We live in a crazy world. The world has changed, and so... I'm just, you know, it's concealed. It's there if I need it,” said Hardaway.

Hardaway is one of several religious leaders who are suing the state of New York after lawmakers restricted guns in houses of worship.

"Our state took it a little further than it should be,” said Hardaway.

SEE MORE: U.S. houses of worship increase security after shootings

Attacks like the 2015 shooting by a white supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina, killing nine worshippers at a historic black church, influenced Hardaway's decision to arm himself during Sunday services for those victims, not unlike his own congregation at Trinity.

"Imagine if someone in the church in Charleston, South Carolina, was armed. You know, people say, well, call the police. How do you call the police in those situations when a person is there, ready to shoot you, and you're in a room?” said Hardaway. "Can you serve God and guns? I don't think you can. I think you have to make a choice. Guns are about death. God is about life."

90 miles away in Rochester, New York, at Asbury First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Stephen Cady has a different view of pistols in the pews.

"I think it's really tempting to just arm everyone and to think that that's going to make you feel safe. But the very fact that you have to be armed, sitting in church or thinking that you would be armed in church is a loss of the kind of sanctuary that we're attempting to provide,” said Cady.

From the pulpit, Cady preaches that Christians are not called to follow the Second Amendment but the Second Commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.

But for Hardaway, love may come in the midst of mayhem.

"I would do what I have to do to protect myself and loved ones—those around me, you know?” said Hardaway. "I think God gives us what we need to protect ourselves.”

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