Georgia Court Wrestles With Allowing Guns in the Pews

Gun-toting advocates are closely watching a Georgia court battle this week over whether or not concealed weapons should be allowed in churches, synagogues and other houses of worship.

Lawyers are challenging the 2010 law that bans people from carrying weapons into church in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

But attorneys representing the state say they disagree and maintain the opinion that the gun ban makes it possible for “worshipers to focus on spiritual activities” instead of “protective vigilance," appellate court records said.

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Moreover, court records show attorneys are debating whether worshippers should have the right to pray and read the Bible in church without fearing for their safety.

What makes this legal challenge unique is that attorneys, who are challenging the current law, are arguing the First Amendment rather than the Second Amendment, which basically means that this is a legal battle over freedom of religion, not freedom to bear arms.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Georgia is one of four states that specifically prohibits guns in places of worship.

Judges heard arguments Thursday on behalf of the Rev. Jonathan Wilkins of the Baptist Tabernacle of Thomaston. Wilkins claims it is his right to bring a gun for protection to work at the church, court documents said.

Also involved in challenging the current law banning guns from houses of worship is the advocate group that holds the opinion that the law violates religious freedom.

The group claims to be Georgia’s “no-compromise voice for gun owners.”

The group claimed in court that churches, not the state, should decide if guns should be allowed in houses of worship.

“The Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights doesn’t just apply in certain locations or to special people favored by the government,” states on its website.

“The right of the people to keep and bear arms applies everywhere and to all of us without qualification. Shall not be infringed means shall not be infringed.”

Court records state those arguing against the ban said the state of Georgia has too many restrictions on where and how citizens can carry a firearm. They say the ban outlawing the guns is vague and poorly written making it difficult to carry a gun anywhere in the state. The advocate group's website states that this results in many state residents giving up on their rights to obtain a Georgia Firearm License.

“It’s about whether or not the government should be making laws dealing with churches,” said President Kelley Kinnett in a statement.

The three judges hearing the case brought up technical legal concerns regarding the lawsuit.

“We’re not asking you to put in more defendants,” said Circuit Judge Gerald Bard Tjoflat, according to The Associated Press. “What we’re saying to you is there’s nothing we can do for you.”

Legal analysts say whoever ends up losing this court battle will probably file the case with the U.S. Supreme Court.

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