New York's religious leaders say Gov. Hochul's law banning houses of worship from having armed congregants is endangering lives

Several religious groups are challenging the law, arguing that synagogues should be able to let licensed civilians carry firearms in case of an attack.

New York's religious leaders say Gov. Hochul's law banning houses of worship from having armed congregants is endangering lives
AP Photo/Hans Pennink
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New York’s Jewish leaders are raising the alarm about “sensitive places,” which could put congregants at risk of violence.

Speaking to News12, Tzvi Waldman, founder of the New York State Jewish Gun Club, said that the new provision in the state’s handgun permit law is “going to create more disaster.”

“We should be able to protect ourselves,” he said.

The passage of the provision in July by New York’s state legislature was done in response to a June decision by the Supreme Court to strike down a law regulating gun ownership in the state. The law came into effect last week and is already drawing multiple legal challenges from gun rights proponents who argue that it places too many restrictions on legal gun owners.

Waldman’s gun rights organization is one of several groups challenging the law.

Waldman told News12 that synagogues should be allowed to permit licensed citizens to carry firearms in case of an attack, stating that “the average Orthodox Jew spends up to 20 hours a week in shul (synagogue). So, for us, not being able to be protected in shul means more than the average person who goes to church once a week.”

In the past few years, Jewish institutions have been targeted by violence. In 2018, a mass shooting saw the murders of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in Philadelphia. In 2019, one person was killed and four others were wounded during a mass stabbing at the home of a Monsey rabbi during a Hanukkah party.

Antisemitic attacks have also been on the rise in New York, reaching record-high levels.

Waldman said that while larger houses of worship may be able to afford to pay for private security, smaller institutions would be unable to afford the expense.

Pastor Jesse Stevenson of the Revive Church in Rockland County shared Waldman’s concerns over the new law, and asked if congregants of his church had to deal with a “police officer who does not want to involve himself,” referencing the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where police were late to intervene against a mass shooter. “Why then would it not be necessary for someone who is licensed to carry?”

“Houses of worship in New York have always been able to work with law enforcement, security guards and other certified armed personnel to keep their communities safe, and under the new concealed carry law, that will continue to be the case,” stated a spokesperson from New York’s Department of Criminal Justice Services.

State lawmakers who voted for the law refused to provide comment to the outlet.

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