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Mississippi Moves Toward Allowing Armed Guards in Churches

Supporters say the measure could avert an attack like the June massacre in Charleston. Opponents accused lawmakers of trying to "pimp out the church"

A Mississippi proposal to make it easier for people to carry guns in churches is moving through the state legislature.

Dubbed "The Church Protection Act," the bill allows houses of worship to designate members as security guards, who could obtain permits to carry concealed weapons to protect congregants from attacks. Those security guards would be immune from lawsuits stemming from responding to a threat. They could also use their work in defense of the church as a defense against criminal charges.

The bill's supporters said the measure could help prevent an attack similar to the June 2015 massacre in a Charleston, South Carolina, church that left nine members dead.

One opponent of the bill, State Sen. Hillman Frazier, pulled out a sword during a debate in the Mississippi Capitol on Tuesday, citing a biblical story about a disciple cutting off a servant's ear.

"We don't need to pimp out the church for political purposes," Frazier said, according to local NBC affiliate WLBT. "If you want to pass laws to liberalize gun laws, do that. But don't use the church to do that."

Sen. Sean Tindell, a supporter, said the bill would only give churches the option to create a security force.

"Gives members of the church, if they so choose, a greater ability to protect themselves and their families and their church," he said, WLBT reported.

The Mississippi Senate voted 36-14 in favor of the measure, which now heads to the House.

The bill would also broaden concealed carry rights.

A gun-control advocacy group, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said the bill defies the will of a vast majority of Mississippi voters who don't see concealed carry permits as a priority.

The National Rifle Association praised the Mississippi lawmakers for defying the gun control activists, saying the measure "ensures that each Mississippian has the right to carry their firearm in the manner that best suits them.”