Writing for a diocesan newsletter, Special Edition from the Bishop [subscribe], the Rt. Rev. Greg Rickel of the Diocese of Olympia explains several guidelines about guns in church buildings:
For a while, the Office of Bishop has been asked to come up with some possible guidelines. I write today for just that purpose. I want to reiterate that these are simply guidelines. This is not a policy. This office is not encouraging a specific action, nor directing you to do anything. Instead, we are providing you with information.
Over a year ago I was asked by a reporter what our policy on guns in church were and I simply said, our policy is that we follow the law. I would say that “policy” remains as far as I am concerned. What you will find attached to this letter are the guidelines developed carefully over the intervening time, and overseen by our Diocesan Safety and Security Coordinator Ron Miller, our Chancellor Judy Andrews, our Governing Bodies, and many other researched findings. These guidelines come from the concerns above, and from a common question, which has come in various forms but most usually is something along the lines of “What shall we do about guns in the church?”
That question must be considered alongside the reality of the law currently in place. Here are a few facts:
- Washington is a state where qualified persons who have undergone and passed checks by FBI fingerprint and FBI National Instant Background Check System, court and DSHS adjudicated mental health commitment records, domestic violence and active restraining orders and other disqualifiers are eligible for a license to carry a concealed pistol. There are only a few areas, such as schools, courthouses, locked psychiatric facilities, secure areas of airports, jails, prisons and places in which persons under 18 are prohibited, in which that license does not allow concealed carry.
- Gun Ownership by legally eligible persons and the right to carry a gun by legally qualified persons are rights guaranteed by the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Washington.
- Churches are not restricted zones by statute.
- There are likely persons who carry concealed weapons in your church now; you just are probably not aware of it. Some may be law enforcement officers, some licensed to carry concealed and some who are not (and in violation of law).
- Churches are private property which can impose their own rules regarding possession of concealed firearms.
- A violation of any such restriction on church property does not constitute a violation of law; however, if a person refuses to leave when requested for violating that guideline, they could be prosecuted for trespassing.