HB 781— Handgun Permit – Church or Religious Organization Property (Parishioner Protection Act of 2019)

Committee: House Judiciary

Position: Oppose

The Maryland Catholic Conference represents the mutual public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, including the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Washington, and the Diocese of Wilmington. We offer this testimony in opposition to House Bill 781.

House Bill 781 would allow an individual without a gun permit to carry the weapon on church property with the written permission of the governing board of the religious institution. While Catholic parishes throughout the state of Maryland make every effort to observe reasonable security measures on an as-needed basis, we do so while relying on individuals who are professionally trained to protect parishioners attending services or other church functions.

House Bill 781, however, would put this responsibility potentially into the hands of untrained civilians, while also encouraging an increased presence of weapons on church properties. While we share a concern about ensuring the safety of our congregations, we believe this measure would detract from rather than further that goal.

The Catholic Church has historically promoted measures that reduce gun violence and the proliferation of weapons in our community. House Bill 781 runs counter to those efforts and to our commitment to building a safer society through peaceful measures whenever possible.

For these reasons, we respectfully encourage an unfavorable report on House Bill 781.