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AG Marshall: Alabama already has gun, stand your ground laws for churches

By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News

Attorney General Steve Marshall said Thursday that Alabama law already allows individuals to defend themselves and others by using deadly force in churches.

Earlier this week, Alabama Daily News reported that State Rep. Lynn Greer, R-Rogersville, plans to again sponsor legislation to specifically clarify that members of a church can use deadly force if threatened. The story was in response to the recent church shooting in Texas, in which two churchgoers were killed and a volunteer security guard stopped further deaths by shooting and killing the attacker.

“The shooting at West Freeway Church of Christ in Texas was a sobering depiction of good vs. evil in our society today,” Marshall said in a written statement. Tragically, that congregation lost two of its members; yet mercifully, Jack Wilson spared the lives of many more. Texas law was recently updated to ensure that individuals like Mr. Wilson do not have to fear the threat of prosecution for carrying a firearm in a church that allows it. Fortunately, Alabama can proudly say that it already offers this same protection.”

The statement was in response to questions from Alabama Daily News and other media outlets’ questions about the “stand your ground” bill that Greer, R-Rogersville, will file in the upcoming legislative session. It’s Greer’s fourth attempt to pass the bill.

Marshall’s office also offered the legal guidance on church safety and encouraged all places of worship to to implement a church safety plan. 

“We urge every church in our state to adopt a church security plan that will better ensure the safety of their members during worship,” Marshall said.

 READ: Stand Your Ground Legal Guidance

Further, the AG’s office said Alabama, like Texas, does not impose a duty to retreat from an attacker in any place in which one is lawfully present. 

Section 13A-3-23(a) of the Alabama Code says: 

“A person is justified in using physical force upon another person in order to defend himself or herself or a third person from what he or she reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that person, and he or she may use a degree of force which he or she reasonably believes is necessary for the purpose. A person may use deadly physical force…if the person reasonably believes that another person is…using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force.”

Alabama’s gun laws treat weapons in churches the same as most other private-owned space: It’s up to the property owner and carrying is OK unless people are explicitly told it’s not.

Greer has argued that the stand your ground law needs to be amended to offer legal protection to churches and other places of worship.

“Some churches, they’re big enough to hire law enforcement (as security),” Greer said Monday. “But some can’t. And there isn’t enough law enforcement to go around.” 

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, has expressed interest in sponsoring Greer’s bill in the Senate this year. The session starts Feb. 4.

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