The 11th Commandment: Thou shalt bring guns to church
The Tucson shootings inspired an informal public debate over gun control laws, as such incidents typically do, with one side decrying the availability of guns to people who appear to be deranged and the other arguing that one sick man's violent rampage shouldn't have any bearing on the public's right to keep and bear arms. On Tuesday, the nonprofit gun-rights group Georgia Gun Owners took the debate one step further, calling for an end to Georgia's ban on firearms in places of worship.
I hadn't heard of the group before Tuesday, when it e-mailed me a press release touting a bill (Georgia House Bill 54) to eliminate the ban. But I have to say I admire the group's ambition. You would think that gun-rights groups would be content to play defense in the weeks after a federal judge was killed and a congresswoman critically wounded, allegedly by a Glock-wielding conspiracy theorist. That, however, would not be the M.O. of Georgia Gun Owners, whose website aligns it with the "real" right-to-carry policies in Alaska, Vermont and, yes, Arizona.
Here's the meat of the GGO's press release:
"Over the past decade, at least 20 instances have been documented throughout the country where a crazed thug enters a place of worship and shot, or attempted to shoot, the place up,” said Patrick Parsons, Executive Director, Georgia Gun Owners.
Once Church Carry is passed in Georgia, individuals will be able to defend themselves and their families against those that would do them harm while they are simply trying to worship peacefully.
I have trouble squaring what the priests at my church say about faith with the idea of parishioners returning fire on an attacker. But they're Irish Catholics, so perhaps they associate too easily with the notion of martyrdom. I'm guessing that the church Patrick Parsons attends has a somewhat different interpretation of turning the other cheek.
By the way, the GGO's main objective is to make it easier for law-abiding Georgians to carry guns anywhere by eliminating the government license, fees, background check, waiting period and fingerprinting. It has launched a petition drive to persuade state lawmakers to do away with such hurdles. The question implicit in the group's position is this: If people can legally buy guns and keep them in their homes, why shouldn't they be allowed to strap them on for self-protection when they leave the house? Here's one answer.
[UPDATE: An earlier version of this post misspelled Tucson.]
-- Jon Healey