Police question actions of gun-toting Royal Oak minister

ROYAL OAK, Mich. (AP) — The Rev. Mark Byers believes in packing heat, even in the pulpit. He urges congregants to do the same. Police say that’s a bad idea.

During one sermon at Calvary Christian Church, Byers says his handgun fell down his pants leg. He said he kicked it under the pulpit and kept preaching.

“I believe 100 percent in the Second Amendment,” Byers, of Troy, told The Daily Tribune for a recent story. “I think it is a great privilege to be entrusted with the right to bear arms. I encourage anyone who will listen to get a CCW (concealed weapons permit).”

Royal Oak Police Chief Ted Quisenberry said the minister is within his rights. But he’s concerned.

“It’s our belief that any time you get large groups of people in a smaller space, especially in a space where they’re emotionally heightened, the chances of something bad happening increase,” he said. He said he considers it “almost inevitable” that something will go wrong.

Byers urges his congregants to get concealed weapons permits and carry firearms to church. He also tells them to go to the firing range to keep up their shooting skills.

“I certainly question the need to do something like this, but it seems like there’s nothing we can do,” the chief said. “We can’t just arbitrarily set up outside the church and start shaking people down to make sure they have the proper permits.”

The church building holds a school and a day care center, where police say it is illegal to carry a gun even with a concealed weapons permit.

After a warning from Quisenberry, Byers said he would keep guns out of the school and day care center. But he said the church has seen violent incidents in the past. Several years ago, a would-be carjacker at a nearby gas station tried to get into two Calvary church doors when 75 children were there for school and day care, Byers said.

“Fifty-five officers can’t protect 30,000 people,” the minister said.

Quisenberry said that even if people are trained in weaponry, accidents are too common in a roomful of guns.

“There’s nothing to indicate there’s criminal activity there, but there’s always the chance that a woman could carry the gun in her purse, then get up and it’s gone,” the chief said.

Calvary’s Web site describes it as an “evangelical, full gospel, non-denominational church,” founded in 1934. Byers, 54, replaced his father-in-law there as minister in 1983.

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Associated Press, via the Detroit Free Press, USA
Mar. 25, 2005

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