AUSTIN, Texas - As you sit down for church services this Christmas, more parishioners may be packing heat.
That's because Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has brought renewed attention to an existing gun law. This week he clarified that licensed handgun owners can legally carry loaded weapons into Texas churches that don't have signs banning them.
At Christ Lutheran Church in South Austin, Pastor John Stennfeld said he's grown accustomed to it.
"We didn't really have an issue with it, I mean, we are Texans," Stennfeld said. "We have a couple of officers who are members of our church who regularly carry their weapons."
The opinion reinforced an existing law allowing guns in churches, and also highlighted a new law that went into effect this fall exempting houses of worship from fees associated with forming security forces.
But many churches still oppose firearms within their flock, and gun control advocates said it doesn't address the root of the issue.
"Adding more guns to a gun violence problem is not necessarily the best way to look at the situation," Ed Scruggs of Texas Gun Sense said.
The legal opinion is meant to provide guidance for churches in the wake of the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. That church did allow guns, but no armed congregants attended on that day.
"Even with a security force, even with guns in churches, it is not a guarantee that this won't happen," Scruggs said.
But at churches like Christ Lutheran, firearms in the pews are simply a sign of the world we live in.
"Bad things are gonna happen," Rev. Stennfeld said. "That's why Jesus came."