ATLANTA (The Blaze/AP) — A federal appeals court in Atlanta is hearing from a gun rights group that wants to overturn a Georgia state ban on guns in places of worship.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta will hear arguments Thursday on whether the 2010 law violates the First Amendment’s religious freedom protections.
The challenge was brought by GeorgiaCarry.org. The gun rights group maintains that religious institutions should be allowed to decide whether to allow firearms inside.
“It’s about whether or not the government should be making laws dealing with churches,” Kelley Kinnett, a regular church goer and president of GeorgiaCarry.org, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). “This is more of a First Amendment case than a Second Amendment case.”
“Why would you not want to take a gun?” asked Jerry Henry, who is also with GeorgiaCarry.org, told the AJC. “Putting up this gun-free zone [in places of worship] makes that place accessible to attack. All we’re asking for is to have the same option the criminal has.”
And churches have been targeted, as the AJC notes:
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.
Others, however, counter that the ban allows worshippers to pray in safety.
“If you chose to have a loaded gun in your home to protect yourself, that’s your right. It’s a whole different issue when you bring that gun where me and my children and other families are just going about … business,” Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told the AJC.
“And it would be even more dangerous, he said, if well-meaning, armed civilians, faced with a dangerous situation, begin shooting in an effort “to save the day. Injecting more guns into more public places and being held by more people causes death and injury much more than it’s saved lives,” he added.
The AJC explains the current ban: “The 2010 Georgia law prohibits guns – except those carried by a law enforcement officer or a licensed security guard – in eight categories. Weapons can be left in locked cars in parking lots, however.”
The prohibited categories include: Government buildings, including schools and colleges, courthouses jails and prisons, places of worship, state mental health facilities where people are involuntarily admitted, bars without permission of the owner, a nuclear power facility, or within 150 feet of a polling place.
A three-judge panel is not expected to rule Thursday, but rather issue an opinion at a later date.