Church leaders oppose new "stand your ground" expansion

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - Governor Mary Fallin signed a bill into law this week that will expand Oklahoma's "stand your ground law" in November to include churches. The law allows someone to use deadly force in self-defense if they are in fear of death or great bodily harm.

Reverend Brandon Johnson, of First Christian Church in Lawton, said they have protocols already in place if they were to ever have a gunman in the church. He doesn't want the stand your ground law to cause people to start carrying without his knowledge.

"People who walk in with the understanding that they can do or act as their gut reaction guides them, I think is unsafe, especially if they haven't been trained," Johnson said.

Shelley Forrester, Rector of Saint Andrew's Episcopal Church, in Lawton said they don't allow anyone except trained law enforcement officers to carry at their place of worship. She thinks the state's focus should lie elsewhere when it comes to improving safety.

"What would be a better solution is to invest in mental health and try to remove the stigma associated with getting people to seek mental health care," Forrester said.

Johnson believes self-defense laws already legally protect those on his churches security team. He said this new law is going make them talk about the safety plan they have in place.

"Now we need to broaden that more to say to maybe a couple people in the congregation, trust those on the safety team, trust that they have your best interest at heart and trust they've been trained to do what they need to do," Johnson said.

Forrester said she doesn't anticipate the new law will change their mind on not letting people at church carry guns.

"We promote the love and kindness of Christ and for everyone to be armed would be quite disconcerting and antithetical to our beliefs," Forrester said.

Johnson said that churchgoers should check in with their pastors if they want to start carrying because the views on members carrying can differ church to church.

Another concern for both church leaders is the constitutional carry law, which is now up to the governor to sign or veto. If signed into law, it would allow people over 21 to carry without a license if they meet the requirements.

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