GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - A need for firearms in the church. For Pastor Tony Karnes, it's a sad reality.
"Unfortunately we live in a world where houses of worship are oftentimes made targets and we've had to implement a lot of safety measures we never thought we'd have to," said Karnes.
Karnes pastors Michael Memorial Baptist Church in Gulfport. On any given Sunday, about 600 members fill the pews. Fortunately, their staff is big enough to have a security team who keeps a watchful eye out, but he understands that not every church can afford to do that. That's why he says passing the Mississippi Church Protection Act would be helpful for smaller churches.
"Situations like the situation in Charleston, South Carolina could happen there and there be no way for innocent people to defend themselves," said Karnes.
The bill would allow church leaders to designate members to undergo firearms training and carry guns to protect the congregation. But Gulfport Police Chief Leonard Papania isn't sold on the idea of giving people more reasons to carry guns.
"I'm a proponent of being responsible with something that can take a life and just to continue to push to have the maximum carrying going on in your state. I don't know if that's progress," said Chief Papania.
Papania is also concerned with a portion of the bill that allows people to carry guns in holsters without a concealed weapons permit.
"In the very back end, it's permitting concealed carry without a permit, has nothing to do with the rest of the bill and that's what I don't like about it," said Papania.
The Senate passed the bill 36-14. It now moves to the House to be voted on, and would need the governor's signature.