The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a legislation that aims to expand civil lawsuit immunity to places of worship when someone uses a gun or deadly force in self-defense.
House Bill 2632, approved by a vote of 62–21, would expand the state's "Stand Your Ground" law by adding "place of worship" to the list of establishments that are shielded from lawsuits stemming from an accidental injury or death by someone who was acting in self-defense on that property.
"This is necessary to protect the place of worship from basically being sued out of existence. It's proactive, and I think it's necessary based on what we've seen in the past," said state Rep. Greg Babinec (R-Cushing), who authored the legislation.
The bill defines a place of worship as any building, structure or office space owned, leased, rented or borrowed and used for worship services and religious activities, but Babinec said that it could also include areas outside a church.
KFOR reported that the measure will only apply to places of worship that allow conceal-and-carry-permitted weapons, and would not force churches to allow weapons on their premises.
Critics of the bill have urged other lawmakers to carefully read the language, particularly Section F on page 3, which states that a person who uses deadly force is "immune from criminal prosecution and civil action."
According to KOCO News 5, law enforcement officers will be able to use standard procedures to investigate an incident, but they are not allowed to arrest the person who used defensive force, unless they have found that there is a probable cause that the use of force was unlawful.
Additionally, anyone pointing a weapon at a perpetrator in self-defense or in order to thwart, stop deter a forcible felony or attempted forcible felony will not be found guilty of committing a criminal act.
Rep. Collin Walke (D-Oklahoma City) had questioned whether anyone would be held responsible if an innocent person was injured during a shooting incident and said he wants protection added in for anyone who is shot.
"If you have a gun in a house of worship, somebody comes in and they start shooting, and then you shoot at the intruder and miss, and they hit your child, your daughter, your son, your wife, my wife, who's a minister, I can't pursue that person in the court of law. That's what this bill says," Walke explained.
Babinec, however, assured that his legislation cannot be used as a defense for anyone who accidentally shoots innocent people.