A newly introduced bill would allow a house of worship in New Jersey to designate one person to carry a handgun for the purpose of protecting religious service attendees.
The bill, which had previously been introduced by the late Assemblyman Ron Dancer, defines “place of worship” as a building, including but not limited to a church, mosque or synagogue, “used primarily as a place of public or private worship on a permanent basis by a recognized and established religious sect or denomination registered as a not-for-profit under the federal Internal Revenue Code.”
Under the bill, the selected person would be required to participate in a firearms training course held by the Police Training Commission, the Director of Civilian Marksmanship, or a recognized rifle or pistol association that certifies instructors. The bill also provides that the selected person may serve in a voluntary capacity or for monetary compensation.
In addition, the legislation specifies the person selected to be an armed guard would be allowed to transport his or her firearm directly to and from their residence and the place of worship.
The original bill was introduced following several deadly incidents which occurred at houses of worship around the country, including the 2017 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas during which 26 people were killed and 20 others were injured and the October 27, 2018 mass shooting in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, during which 11 people were killed and seven were injured in what was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the United States.
In June 2022, a four-judge appeals court panel granted the state’s request for a stay in eight “sensitive places” cited in the gun law, but denied to stay some other restrictions, meaning the law remains in effect for those eight places pending further action in the litigation.
However, despite houses of worship not being included in that stay, passage of this bill would ensure that such locations are shielded from further legal action.
The bill has been referred to Senate Law and Public Safety Committee, where it awaits a hearing.
A companion bill has not yet been introduced in the Assembly, but had been co-sponsored by Assemblyman Gary Schaer in the previous legislative session.
Schaer has introduced his own package of bills last week in an effort to combat the rising anti-Semitism in the state.