By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Politcal Reporter
Tuesday, April 4, 2017, the Alabama House of Representatives passed House Bill 36, which (in its present form) extends stand your ground protection to church security teams.
HB36 was sponsored by State Representative Lynn Greer (R-Rogersville). Greer said that he was asked to bring this bill by a number of church pastors.
Rep. Greer said, “I never thought in my lifetime we would be talking about guns in our church, but we live in a perilous world. There are a lot of terrorists in the world today.”
Rep. Greer said that churches are forming security teams and that his bill would give members of those teams some civil immunity if they are forced to use their weapons in defense of themselves and their fellow church members.
State Representative Juandalynn Givan (D-Birmingham) said, “I think this is a good bill. I have talked to pastors in Birmingham that say they need this. “I did not think I would ever rise in support of a Greer bill, but the Lord moves in mysterious ways.”
Rep. Greer said that he likes the substitute version of his bill over the original version. This would extend the stand your ground bill to includes churches. Various churches have groups that are forming a security force that has pistol permits and receives training from police and sheriffs’ offices that they hope that you never need to use it.
State Representative John Rogers (D-Birmingham) said that open carry is legal in Alabama. I can carry a gun to church anyway. Everybody has a gun in my church after that killing in South Carolina.”
Rep. Greer said that he spoke with a retired sheriff’s deputy who said that he never took his gun to church in his whole career; but began carrying it in church two years ago and now would never come to church without it.
Rep. Rogers said that if just one of those people in that church in Charleston had had a gun they could have prevented it.
State Representative James Buskey (D-Mobile) asked if members of a church security force would they have the same training and certification that a policeman would have to go through.
Greer said that many large Churches hire off-duty law enforcement officers to provide security but not all Churches can afford to do that. Greer said that the first version of his bill required that members of the Church security team receive APOST training from the Alabama Peace Officers Training Commission; but the Commission came before the committee and said that they did not want to participate. Greer said that Church Security teams are going to have training but it is not required. There is training going on now; but it is being provided by the Sheriffs and local police departments.
Rep. Buskey asked, “If they are not going to go through that training why would they have immunity?”
Rep. Greer said, “You don’t have to have APOST training to defend yourself your home and your family.”
State Representative Barbara Boyd (D-Anniston) asked, “Did you run this by the Chief of staff of APOST?”
Rep. Greer said, “He came to the committee and said that APOST wanted nothing to do with training.” They did not have the manpower or the resources to provide this training.
Rep. Boyd said, “I support what you are saying. It is hard to support bringing guns to church but in view of what is happening…..”
Rep. Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville) asked, “Have you consulted the head of the church in this? Carrying a gun in the House of God. What would He say?”
Rep. Greer said, “The head of the church is God Almighty. I think He would approve of this.”
Rep. Jackson said, “We are desecrating the house of the Lord by bringing guns to His house. When it is your time to go you can have guns. You can have armed guards, but when it is your time you leave. “We have brought carnality to the House of the Lord.”
State Representative Dickie Drake (R-Leeds) said, “I am in charge of security at our Church.” “What required training is in your bill?”
Rep. Greer said, “None.” “We are giving you some immunity.”
Rep. Drake said, “I support the bill.”
State Representative Art Mooney (R-Indian Springs) said, “I rise in support of your bill.”
Look at the internet and look at attacks on churches in the United States. It is amazing to look at the threats of attacks on churches. There were bombing threats in Birmingham on Jewish Community Centers. “We are at a point in our world where we are no longer safe anywhere.”
State Representative Berry Forte (D-Eufaula) said, “I am scared of guns I accidentally shot another boy when I was 9. We was hunting. I accidentally shot him hunting. He has lived over 70 years and still has a bullet in his back. We got guns everywhere in Alabama. It ain’t going to stop the fighting.”
State Representative Artis “AJ” McCampbell (D-Livingston) asked if this would also apply to an Islamic temple.
Rep. Greer answered, “If somebody walked into an Islamic temple and started shooting, if they shot you back they would be immune.”
Rep. McCampbell said, “These churches need to be hiring trained professionals. They need to hire law enforcement or private security forces that do have that training. I have problems with just the average parishioner that says I have a gun and I will come protect the church. When people have a gun in their pocket they are emboldened to do things that they would not ordinarily do. At our church we hire police officers. They are trained to try to settle the situation before the use of deadly force. I understand what you are trying to do and that we are living in a different time and age, but I am not convinced that this is the remedy.”
State Representative John Knight (D-Montgomery) said, “I don’t think you should be giving immunity to people without background checks who might have mental problems. Some churches are also voting places. Your giving immunity to people who have not had any training or background checks. I wish you would think about this.”
House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) asked, “What if you have an armed security team and there were some kids stealing some copper.”
Rep. Greer said that if I was stealing some copper at I was facing an armed security team I think I would drop it. If they didn’t then they would have every right to gun them down.”
Rep. Greer said, “We are not trying to pass a law requiring a church to create a security force.” “If a church wants to have a security team I want to support their right to have a security team.”
Rep. Daniels said, “Creating armed militias everywhere won’t make the world any safer. I am a huge gun supporter, but I don’t think we are going to make this country any safer by arming everyone. I understand what you are trying to do but I think we should be cautious in how we do it.”
State Representative Randall Shedd (R-Fairview) said, “I know that you are sincere in bringing this legislation. The churches in my district are telling me that they do not want the state in their business. That is why I am voting against this bill.”
HB36 passed 63 to 33.
The bill now moves on to the Senate.