Metro, News

R. I. churches oppose concealed weapons on premises

Religious authorities, police, lawmakers discuss legislative, grassroots approaches to gun control

By
Contributing Writer
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

State law enforcement and politicians continue to debate gun regulation following the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida earlier this month. The Rhode Island State Police and the Rhode Island State Council of Churches clashed after RISP Captain Derek Borek informed the congregation at St. James Episcopal Church that he advises law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons in church services. Borek stated that his remark, given during an active shooter training Feb.17, does not indicate a change in state policy, but rather is consistent with standard protocol.

“Unfortunately, in society today, we have to think about what we would do in that type of situation,” Borek said. “It’s sad that we have to think about (shootings) in our churches or in our schools.”

In response to Borek’s assertion, the RISCC issued a statement saying that it does not support the presence of concealed weapons in church.

“A house of worship is a safe space for anyone to be able to come into, any person who feels vulnerable on any level,” said the Rev. Dr. Donald Anderson, executive minister of the Council. “The idea of a weapon being present violates that concept.”

Gun control should be prioritized over protocol in response to an active shooter situation, Anderson added.

“To have any conversation about this issue and not make … an elementary step (toward) eliminating assault weapons is absolutely foolish and disingenuous,” he said.

While police and religious authorities discussed gun regulation in churches, Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order instituting a “red flag” policy throughout the state Monday, which aims to ensure that individuals deemed dangerous do not have access to firearms. The order establishes a campaign to educate the public and state police on how to identify and respond to warning signs of individuals who might pose a threat to themselves or to others. It also institutes a gun safety working group, but does not expand the capacity of law enforcement to take firearms away from individuals.

“The Parkland shooting highlighted the urgency of action,” said Josh Block, press secretary to the governor. “The Governor stepped up and took decsive, executive action to make Rhode Island safer,” Block added. She also declared her support for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines during a press conference Tuesday, as The Herald previously reported.

Raimondo’s executive order lays the groundwork for the Rhode Island General Assembly to pass a proposed red flag law, which would permanently establish the conditions set out by the executive order and expand law enforcement’s authority to confiscate firearms, Raimondo said during the press conference.

R.I. lawmakers have proposed other bills to address gun reglation. State Senator Gayle Goldin (D-3) introduced a bill banning high-capacity magazines earlier this month, which she is hopeful will pass, she said.

In addition to political and policy-based action, Borek and other members of the police force are continuing active shooter trainings throughout the state.

“You should have a plan in place, you should visualize what you would do in that plan and then have situation awareness,” he said.