Chicago (AFP) – A new law in the US state of Oklahoma allows churchgoers to use guns to respond to threats of violence, without the worry that they could face criminal or civil penalties.
Governor Mary Fallin signed the bill into law Monday, which extends so-called “stand your ground” protections to places of worship.
Those protections had previously applied to private property, allowing homeowners, for instance, to shoot threatening intruders without having to prove that deadly force was their last resort.
The bill had been overwhelmingly approved by Oklahoma’s legislature in April, with only one Democrat voting against the measure in the state’s Senate.
The law bars lawsuits or criminal charges against anyone who fires a shot in self-defense inside a church or any other place of worship.
Similar measures have been introduced in several other states with varying degrees of success, following the November 2017 shooting at a church in Texas.
In one of the worst mass shootings in US history, gunman Devin Patrick Kelley killed 26 people and wounded 20 others at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
He was confronted by an armed citizen who shot Kelley as he exited the church.
At least nine states have “stand your ground” laws, including Florida, Alabama, Kansas and Kentucky.
In Oklahoma, the expansion of its “stand your ground” law was enacted as the governor was considering yet another measure to broaden gun rights in the state.
A “constitutional carry” bill approved by the state legislature last week would allow anyone older than 21 to carry guns without a permit or training.
The governor has not indicated whether she will veto or sign the measure.