VALLEY STATION, KY (WAVE) - Church shootings have been in the headlines for the past few years, so when a local church announced that it is asking people to bring guns to church we wanted to know why.
Most people consider church a sanctuary, a place of peace. But recently, church shootings have been in the headlines. Last Sunday, Kansas abortion Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed while ushering at his church. In March, an Illinois pastor was killed and two parishioners injured after a gunman opened fire during Sunday services. In July 2008, a gunman killed two people at a church youth performance in Knoxville, Tennessee. Despite this news, Ken Pagano, pastor of New Bethel Church in Valley Station, is encouraging people to bring their guns to church on June 27.
"This is for anybody that believes in second amendment rights. And that is the buttress to first amendment rights," said Pagano.
Pagano, a concealed carry instructor who served in the Marine Corps, is holding what he calls an Open Carry Celebration.
"We're trying to promote responsible gun ownership and gun safety," Pagano said.
People can come into the church wearing their gun as long as the weapon is unloaded and in a secure holster.
"People in this community with all the negativity that goes with firearms and what I call unhealthy paranoia. Kentucky is an open carry state," said Pagano.
"We are going back to the wild, wild west" said Rev. James Tennyson of the Justice Resource Center.
The Open Carry Celebration isn't sitting well with Tennyson. "Anytime you bring any type of weapons into a house of God, it bothers me."
Within the past three years, Tennyson says the JRC has gotten at least 300 guns off the streets through their gun buyback program. He says bringing guns into the house of God, even if they are unloaded, is sending the wrong message. Pagano disagrees.
"This will be the safest place in town that day," said Pagano.
According to Pagano, a local police officer will provide security at the open carry celebration, which will be a picnic-like setting with food and games. There will even be a raffle to win a gun.
Pagano said the money raised will go to a local charity, not the church. Area gun store and firing range owners will be on hand to talk about safety.