Wisconsin bishops seek to keep guns out of church

MILWAUKEE Tue Nov 1, 2011 7:06pm EDT

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MILWAUKEE (Reuters)- Wisconsin Catholic bishops are asking parishioners to avoid carrying guns into church, now that a new law permitting residents of the state to carry concealed weapons has gone into effect.

"Intuitively, we understand that acts of violence, destruction, and murder are antithetical to the message and person of Jesus Christ and have no rightful place in our society, especially sacred places," the bishops said in a statement on Monday on the eve of the law's Tuesday enactment.

"Whatever an individual parish decides to do regarding its policy on concealed weapons, we ask that all people seriously consider not carrying weapons into church buildings as a sign of reverence for these sacred spaces."

The statement was jointly issued by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki and four other bishops from Madison, La Crosse, Green Bay and Superior. The bishops said a decision on whether to ban concealed weapons was up to individual churches.

The Wisconsin law leaves Illinois as the only state that does not allow residents to carry concealed firearms.

On the first morning of Wisconsin's concealed carry law, more than 80,000 application forms were downloaded from the Wisconsin Department of Justice website, spokeswoman Dana Brueck said.

The state expects to start issuing concealed carry permits later on Tuesday, although it will take applicants several days to receive them.

Under the new law, an employer may prohibit an employee from carrying concealed weapons at work, but cannot prohibit an employee from keeping concealed weapons in the employee's vehicle, even if it is parked on employer property.

The law mandates four hours of instructor-led training to carry a concealed weapon, or completion of a hunter safety course through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Those who would be allowed to carry such weapons must be at least be 21 years old, a Wisconsin resident and not prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law, or as a condition of bail or release in a criminal case.

Permitted under the new concealed weapons law are handguns, electric weapons such as stun guns or tasers, knives other than switchblades, and billy clubs. Machine guns, short-barreled rifles and short-barreled shotguns are prohibited.

When carrying concealed, Wisconsin residents must also carry a license and photo ID unless on their own property. Out-of-state residents from the 26 states with requirements similar to Wisconsin's can legally carry a gun with an out-of-state carry permit. However, Wisconsin residents must have a state-issued permit.

(Writing and reporting by John Rondy; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Cynthia Johnston)

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