Should you be allowed to carry a gun to church? What about the person sitting next to you?
The question before a three-judge panel for the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta Thursday is whether Georgia’s prohibition on firearms in places of worship conflicts with the promise of religious freedom in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
GeorgiaCarry.org, which brought the initial lawsuit, believes religious institutions, not Georgia law, should dictate if firearms are allowed inside, and they point to accounts of shootings in churches as examples of why guns are needed even while worshiping.
But lawyers for the state say the ban makes it possible for “worshipers to focus on spiritual activities” instead of “protective vigilance.”
GeorgiaCarry.org’s argument about the First Amendment is a novel approach to challenging a gun law. Only Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas and North Dakota specifically prohibit firearms in churches, synagogues and mosques, according to court filings.
“It’s about whether or not the government should be making laws dealing with churches,” said Kelley Kinnett, a regular church goer and president of GeorgiaCarry.org, a gun rights group. “This is more of a First Amendment case than a Second Amendment case.”
Last month, a former deacon at a Florida church shot and wounded the pastor and an associate pastor before parishioners tackled him.
Last year two teenage boys were wounded when three gunmen stormed a California church.
And in 2008 a gunman killed two and wounded six in a Tennessee church because he believed liberals, like the church’s members, were destroying the country.
Opponents of the ban also point out that large sums of cash are handled by church workers or volunteers who are sometimes there alone.
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution | Rhonda Cook