Who in your pew is packing heat?

Guns in church (VIDEO)
(FOX19 NOW Photo)
(FOX19 NOW Photo)
(FOX19 NOW Photo)
(FOX19 NOW Photo)
Mark Stusek (FOX19 NOW Photo)
Mark Stusek (FOX19 NOW Photo)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - In Ohio, a parishioner who brings a concealed weapon to church could be charged with a felony. But there's an exception - it's legal if the church gives permission.

It's an issue, many religious leaders are grappling with.

"How would they know it? If it's a concealed weapons permit, it's concealed. They would never know it unless something happened and then they should be thankful somebody did." a Kentucky man told FOX19 NOW.

Kentucky has no law preventing someone from taking a firearm into church.

In Indiana, it's a similar story, as long as the person is licensed.

In Ohio, on the other hand, it's illegal to carry a concealed handgun into a place of worship unless a church leader gives permission.

"We have the right to say yes or no to that," said Reverend Didi Bacon.

Pastor Bacon is the pastor of Mount Carmel Christian Church in Union Township.

He said they've had church members with concealed carry permits who've asked for permission and they've allowed it on a case-by-case basis.  He says many church leaders are wrestling with this issue.

Pastor Bacon says the reality of the world we live in is that church is no longer immune from violence - there are security threats.

"Whether it be vandalism, theft or heaven forbid, a terrorist event," said Pastor Bacon. "You cannot be naive today."

To that end, Mount Carmel has a trained security team and contracts with Union Township Police for a uniformed, armed officer during services.

A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati says congregants with concealed weapons are not allowed to carry guns in their churches.

"I'd rather have a policeman than just some individual whose a licensed carrier," said Joseph Young.

Former veteran Dayton Police Department officer Mark Stusek demonstrates for some church leaders just how loud a .38-caliber gun is.

Stusek's company assesses Ohio church properties for safety vulnerabilities and builds security plans.

He doesn't think allowing individual parishioners to conceal carry is a good idea, but that a trained -- and often armed -- security team is the best defense.

"Whether we're talking about San Bernardino or church shootings, they're over within three to seven minutes, so police area non-factor," Stusek said.

FOX19 NOW reached out to other local religious communities.

The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati didn't reveal whether they allow concealed carry, but said they work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement.

The Islamic Association of Cincinnati said the concealed carry issue has never come up, but they do have policies to address potential threats.

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