BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The Charleston church shooting has inspired many questions. What would have happened if someone else in the church had a gun? Can someone have a gun in a place of worship?
Here in Louisiana, the short answer to that second question is yes. People can have a concealed weapon in a church, provided they meet certain requirements.
There's just one big problem. One of those stipulations is eight hours of "tactical" training that many gun trainers in Baton Rouge said they will not provide.
Those gun trainers said there are no clear guidelines as to what those extra eight hours should include and they refuse to teach a class without a curriculum.
Legislation allowing for guns in Louisiana churches was first introduced by Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, five years ago.
"If there's one place where you should feel safe, it should be the church," said Burns.
The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2010.
In order to carry a concealed weapon in a church, synagogue or mosque, the following requirements must be met:
- The pastor or priest must approve of having the weapon in the sanctuary
- The congregation must be informed that weapons are present
- The individual possessing the weapon must have a normal concealed carry permit
- The individual must undergo eight hours of additional "tactical" training annually
If an individual does not fulfill any of those requirements, including that eight hours of training, they cannot legally have a concealed weapon in a place of worship.
"Just because you have a concealed carry permit, there are still restrictions in place," said Sgt. Nick Manale of the Louisiana State Police. "There's limitations about where you can carry that weapon."
At St. Mary's Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, deputies from the local sheriff's office protect parishioners and the offering plate during services. However, Pastor Conway Knighton said concealed weapons are not allowed on the premises.
"I think that would be too dangerous and too unnerving for a lot of people," he said.
In light of recent events in Charleston, South Carolina, Rep. Burns said it could be a problem if people cannot legally have guns in the sanctuary.
"Certainly someone could have stopped him if they had had a weapon with them," he said.
Pastor Knighton disagrees.
"When people carry guns, it does something different to them. They think different, they act different," he said. "More people could have been hurt."
Rep. Burns admitted the law is not perfect and said that it would be better to have a professional security force. However, he said that in cases when a church cannot afford such services, concealed carry may be the best bet for staying safe.
As of now, Knighton said he has no intention of having concealed weapons in the sanctuary.
"What happened at this church has been a wake-up call," he said. "But I really don't see where many pastors and churches are going to change what they're already doing."
For more information about concealed carry in Louisiana, see