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Such talk exasperates gun-control advocates, who say that firearms in a crowded environment such as a house of worship has the potential for disaster.

“I’ve got no problems with any institution, whether it’s a business or a church, hiring professional, trained security people who know the risks,” said Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “What I do have serious concerns about is the idea that a private individual, just because they’re a gun owner, can be a security guard just by carrying a gun to church.”

As for Mr. Pagano, Mr. Helmke said, “Maybe he should be more concerned about the Fifth Commandment than the Second Amendment.”

What some people don’t realize is that a pastor isn’t a “sanctified sheep,” Mr. Pagano said, but a shepherd, the protector of the flock. That includes the physical safety of the parishioners within the church building.

“People have this idea that Christians have to turn the other cheek,” Mr. Pagano said. “That’s true, but I don’t think there’s anything in the Old or New Testament that requires them to roll over and die if someone attacks them or their family.”