Following the mass shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said arming congregants could prevent similar tragedies in the future. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick thinks so, too, and wants Paxton to let more churches know that is an option.

Patrick requested Friday that Paxton issue an opinion clarifying whether congregants can bring guns to church and whether churches are exempt from state fees for creating volunteer security teams. Patrick said in the request that he hoped Paxton could inform more churches "what legal options they have to improve their security."

Patrick made it clear in his letter to the attorney general that he feels state law allows congregants to bring guns to church unless a sign at the door says otherwise. He also wrote that a recently passed law exempts churches from fees other institutions must pay to form their own security forces.

The law, which went into effect in September, allows churches to have armed volunteer security teams without having to pay certain state fees to license the volunteers — fees that the law's authors said would be too much of a burden for smaller churches like the one in Sutherland Springs. State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, the measure's author, said in early November that many churches may not know of the change in law.

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"I know many are thankful for the Texan who stopped this attack through the exercise of his Second Amendment rights, but I believe our state laws provide more protection than many Texans realize," Patrick said in a news release. "That's why I asked the attorney general to clarify those laws for all Texans."

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • A lone gunman killed at least 26 people and injured many more at a church in Sutherland Springs. The tiny town was left reeling from the deadliest shooting at a place of worship in American history. [Full story]

  • A state law put into effect in September made it legal for houses of worship to have armed volunteer security — but the law's author says many churches in Texas don't know it's an option. [Full story]

  • The Air Force failed to report Devin Kelley's domestic violence conviction to a federal database, which allowed him to buy guns before the massacre in a Sutherland Springs church. That failure has been a problem for years. [Full story]

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