Updated with audio and video (18:25 EDT)
Picking up on a story from Louisiana about a bill to allow concealed carry for firearms in houses of worship, MSNBC's Tamron Hall asked viewers of the network's live coverage shortly before 3 p.m. EDT today if the legislation was "Crossing the Line."
True to the segment's formula, only one side of the controversy was represented in the form of a guest to discuss the matter, in this case, an opponent of the bill, State Rep. Barbara Norton (D). [full interview audio here; click play button on embed at right for video]
While Hall did ask Norton to react to a quote by bill sponsor State Rep. Henry Burns (R), she failed to ask Norton why she believed it was proper for the state to issue a top-down one-size-fits-all gun ban for houses of worship, as dictated by current law.
After all, as New Orleans Times-Picayune capital bureau staffer Ed Anderson reported yesterday, the bill does not require churches to allow parishioners to carry concealed and parishioners must be notified by church officers prior to any move to adopt a security force or allow concealed carry by worshipers:
The bill would allow a church to hire a security force or create its own by authorizing the church's board or pastor to tap parishioners who have concealed weapons permits to bring them to church. State law now bans weapons in houses of worship.
Burns said his bill does not force churches to participate.
Burns' bill was amended by Rep. Mack "Bodi" White, R-Central, to require a church that allows armed parishioners to notify all members in announcements from the pulpit or in the weekly bulletin or newsletter.
Indeed, to at least play devil's advocate, Hall could have asked Norton how she would react to those who might say the state's current law was an improper imposition by the state on the freedom of houses of worship to conduct their affairs without state interference.
Another failed opportunity at fully informing her MSNBC audience was how Hall failed to ask Norton about real-life situations in which an armed security volunteer at a church stopped a criminal intent on harming innocent worshipers.
One such widely-reported example came nearly two-and-a-half years ago in Colorado Spring, Colorado. In December 2007, Jeanne Assam, an armed security volunteer for New Life Church, put an end to a church shooting by spree killer Matthew Murray.
From an Associated Press account at that time:
Senior Pastor Brady Boyd of New Life Church said the gunman had no connection to the church. "We don't know this shooter," Boyd said. "He showed up on our property yesterday with a gun with the intention of hurting people, and he did."
The gunman opened fire at 12:30 a.m. at the Youth With a Mission center. Witnesses said the man asked to spend the night there and opened fire with a handgun when he was turned down. They described him as a young man, perhaps 20, in a dark jacket and cap.
Later, at New Life Church, a gunman wearing a trench coat and carrying a high-powered rifle opened fire in the parking lot and later walked into the church as a service was letting out.
Jeanne Assam, a church member who volunteers as a security guard, shot Murray, who was found with a rifle and two handguns, police said.
Assam said she believes God gave her the strength to confront Murray, keeping her calm and focused.
"It seemed like it was me, the gunman and God," she said at a news conference.
The pastor credited her with preventing more bloodshed.
"There could have been a great loss of life yesterday, and she probably saved over 100 lives."
Boyd said the gunman had a lot of ammunition and estimated that 40 rounds had been fired inside the church, leaving what looked like a "war scene."
It's quite conceivable that State Rep. Burns and his Republican and Democratic colleagues who voted for the bill had incidents like the New Life Church shooting in mind.
It's a shame that MSNBC either seems to have conveniently forgotten that story, perhaps because it tends to bolster the case for being able to praise the Lord while packing a pistol.