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home : news : news   November 25, 2015

3/31/2014 9:01:00 AM
Guns on God's property?

Matt Leitch of Hennepin explains how to shoot at Buffalo Grove Shooting Range in rural Ottawa. Once he receives his concealed carry license this spring, he plans to take his gun everywhere he’s legally allowed, including to church.NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
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Matt Leitch of Hennepin explains how to shoot at Buffalo Grove Shooting Range in rural Ottawa. Once he receives his concealed carry license this spring, he plans to take his gun everywhere he’s legally allowed, including to church.

NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
What's the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act?
Illinois residents with a concealed carry license can now carry a handgun outside their homes for self-defense, as long as it is hidden from view. However, the exceptions to this law are many. Licensed carriers cannot bring firearms into schools (including colleges and universities), child care facilities, government buildings, hospitals or nursing homes, libraries or public parks, just to name a few. The requirements to obtain a license are numerous. Beyond holding a valid FOID card, the applicant must be at least 21 and complete 16 hours of approved training courses.
Rachel Stella
Media Editor

Once he receives his concealed carry license this spring, Matt Leitch of Hennepin plans to take his gun to church.

“If I’m doing it correctly, you don’t know I’m carrying a gun,” he said, tucking the weapon invisibly under his blue jeans and white hoodie in a demonstration.

Churches have the option, under the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act, to post a “no firearms” sign on their properties. The Illinois State Police-approved sign, posted at public schools and state government buildings, must be posted on private property (excluding residences) if the owner wishes to prohibit any firearms, including those concealed by licensed carriers, on the property.

But Leitch, who attends Ax Church in La Salle, doesn’t think many churches in the Illinois Valley will post the sign.

“I doubt there’s many churches in the area who will,” he said. “This is a fairly pro-gun community. There were two pastors in my concealed carry class.”

Leitch said he hadn’t heard any discussion at his church about posting the sign, but that could partly be because Ax Church does not own the building it meets in. Only the owner of the property can decide to post the “no firearms” sign unless other arrangements are made in the rental or lease agreement, according to the Illinois State Police’s concealed carry licensing website.

For churches that do own their property, however, will the gun-prohibiting sign become a common Sunday morning sight?

Pastor Steve Adamson has been thinking, along with other leaders at Faith Assembly of God in Peru, about whether to post the “no firearms” sign on the church’s property.

“We decided we wanted more information before we made any kind of decision,” Adamson said.

“It’s up to each individual congregation,” Adamson said, but added that his denomination, the Assemblies of God, looked to its legal counsel, Richard Hammar, for guidance on the issue.

Hammar, based out of Springfield, Mo., said he could not comment specifically on the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act because he hadn’t examined it.

Burl Cole, lead pastor at Valley Community Church in Spring Valley, said he could see both sides of the issue.

“On one hand, we have the safety of the congregation, and on the other hand, the safety of the congregation,” he joked.

Cole said he personally would not choose to post a “no firearms” sign on church property.

“The issue — what it really boils down to, for me — is balance,” he said. “We believe, along with the Founding Fathers, that the Second Amendment was necessary for the preservation of liberty. Along with that, it’s obvious that common sense should be practiced.”

For Pastor Betty Delgado of Trinity United Church of Christ in La Salle, however, there should be no question.

“This is God’s property,” she said. “We’re here to love people, not think about how we have to defend ourselves.”

Delgado has no plans to post the “no firearms” sign at Trinity, and feels that it should be a non-issue.

“Nobody better have a gun there,” she said.

The legalization of carrying concealed weapons, she believes, is a step in the wrong direction.

“I’m not comfortable with more and more people walking around with a gun in their hand,” she said, adding the increased accessibility of firearms makes it “too easy” for carriers to commit violent crimes in the heat of the moment when their anger is aroused. “If we learned how to love each other better, there wouldn’t be this kind of baloney.”

For Delgado, church and guns simply do not mix.

“I think people need to learn how to love; they need to be in church; they need to learn there’s a God who loves them very much,” she said. “I don’t see what that has to do with carrying a gun.”

The Rev. Harold Datzman O.S.B. at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Peru said the “no firearms” sign should be posted at schools, but said he hadn’t thought about posting it at church because he doesn’t foresee gun violence being a problem there.

“I don’t think anyone would find it necessary to take a gun in church,” Datzman said.

He said when he visited Israel in 1989, he saw members of the military openly carrying weapons everywhere, but even they left their guns outside when they entered a church.

“Most people see the church as a sacred place,” Datzman said. “Why would you need a gun in church? I just don’t see the need for it.”

Rich Foss, pastoral elder of Plow Creek Fellowship, a part of Plow Creek Mennonite Church in rural Tiskilwa, said his church doesn’t believe in violence, but feels no need to display the “no firearms” sign.

“Even if someone brought a gun to church, we would respond with nonviolence,” he said. “Putting up a sign isn’t going to prevent somebody who’s intent on violence. We have a belief that we ought not to respond with violence to any kind of violence.”

Plow Creek member David Stahnke elaborated on that belief.

“My question is: What’s the purpose of having a gun in church?” Stahnke asked. “Are we placing our trust in Jesus? Or are we placing our trust in the weapons of this world?”

But Leitch said trust in God’s protection “does not give you permission to play hopscotch on I-80,” and that Jesus’ teaching supports “taking care of yourself, and being prepared to take care of yourself.”

“Someone who’s gone through the trouble to get a license … isn’t the kind of person who’s going to shoot up a church or a school,” Leitch said. “I am not the threat; I am, essentially, the solution.”

Leitch said he has “a biblical mandate to protect my wife and children.”

“I’m not out there looking to kill people,” he said. “I have a God-given responsibility to protect those around me.”

Rachel Stella can be reached at (815) 220-6933 or

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014
Article comment by: anon

I have heard your statistics before. I can't figure out how we can live without doctors, nor can human error be prevented. What can be prevented is losing 1 in 60,000 people due to mistakes in handling firearms. It scares me that you and others consider that statistic to be acceptable. Concealed carry weapons do not make me feel safer, and your statistic proves my point.

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014
Article comment by: fosterbw99

First off, the last time I looked, private property is private property – that incudes churches. It is up to the congregation whether or not they want to allow concealed carry or even open carry of a firearm on their property. This not something that government should control. Oh… and by the way, do you think those Swiss Guards in the Vatican limit their arms to ceremonial pikes?

Concerning the myth that a large number of people are hurt by guns that where meant to protect them. You need to research your facts. Firearm misuse causes only a small number of accidental deaths in the U.S. For example, compared to being accidentally killed by a firearm, you are: Five times more likely to burn to death, Five times more likely to drown, 17 times more likely to be poisoned, 17 times more likely to fall to your death, and 68 times more likely to die in an automobile accident. Medical mistakes kill 400,000 people per year – the equivalent of almost three fully loaded Boeing 747 jet crashes per day – or about 286 times the rate of all accidental firearm deaths. This translates into 1 in 6 doctors causing an accidental death, and 1 in 56,666 gun owners doing the same. These statistics come from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Center for Health Statistics.

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014
Article comment by: anon

People who feel the need to carry a gun with them at all times in the Illinois Valley area scare me. Quick access to guns to settle a problem doesn't sound safe to me. I can't think of a time that I wished for a gun to protect myself, which is probably why I don't understand this desire to return to the wild west days. I've also noticed in newspaper accounts that many times innocent people are hurt by the gun that was supposed to keep them safe. I really would feel safer if onlypolice officers were carrying guns.

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014
Article comment by: Anonymous19647

Lets stop & think about what kind of person thinks he should carry a gun in church.

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