Pastor James Brown Jr. of the Covenant Baptist Church in Barnesville, Ga., wants his state legislature to pass a bill that permits churchgoers to carry firearms to worship at his church. Joining him in the effort is Pastor Joe Morecraft of Chalcedon Presbyterian Church in Cumming, Ga.
And the campaign is just getting started.
The bill, HB 54, was introduced in late January
by Republican state Rep. Bobby Franklin, who serves the state’s 43rd district.
If passed, it will repeal a section of a law prohibiting individuals from carrying guns in a church setting. Currently, the state’s “Common Sense Lawful Carry Act” (SB 308) prohibits guns in government buildings, courthouses, prisons, schools, nuclear facilities, mental health institutions and places of worship.
Brown explains why the change should be made, in his YouTube video:
And Morecraft adds his reasons in a video for the Georgia Gun Owners organization.
“First, it is a God-given and constitutionally protected right in America and throughout the states,” explained Brown. “Our Founding Fathers made it explicitly clear it was the right of the people ‘to keep and bear arms.’ In 1770, Georgia passed a law requiring guns to be carried to church. While some say things have changed since the 1600 and 1700s, one thing has not changed – man’s depraved heart. The same reasons they passed the law then, is the same reason why we should remove the prohibition today.”
Second, with the rise of violent crime against houses of worship in the U.S. and throughout the world, it only makes sense that we should be able to defend ourselves and our loved ones. We have witnessed criminals and maniacs committing acts of violence upon defenseless people in places of worship. Virginia, Tennessee, Illinois, Colorado, and California are recent examples. Many places of worship have large amounts of cash and crowds gathered in one place. This makes them an easy target for criminals and maniacs.
Third, we are witnessing the rise of civil tensions all throughout the world. As civil unrest, anti-Americanism, and even anti-Christianity increase, we should be able to worship and conduct church affairs without being a target of opportunity. There are many factions throughout the world who would like to do us harm. Now, many of these factions are operating in America.
Whether it is criminals, maniacs, or civil oppression, God has granted us the right to use these means to defend our most precious right – life. Jesus answered this question simply by stating in Luke 11:21, “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:”
We must not let this prohibition be the cause of innocent adults and children being assaulted in our worship gatherings. HB 54 simply removes the prohibition against lawful citizens carrying weapons in places of worship.
Franklin also believes Christians should have the right to protect themselves in places of worship.
“Georgians aren’t prevented from self-defense when they’re at a grocery store, when they’re at a restaurant or walking down the street. Why should they be victims when they’re worshipping together?” he asked.
“I’m really amazed at how our politicians here can’t see how illogical they’re being when they claim no one should have a gun in church. The ones you’re concerned about having guns aren’t the ones sitting in the pew with you. They’re the ones coming in from the outside to do harm.”
Franklin notes that many churches are logical targets for thieves who would steal church offerings, or possibly as targets for disgruntled parents who have been involved in custody battles over their children.
“Who is going to look out for the children or defend the helpless?” asked Franklin.
Rep. Bobby Franklin
What about hiring armed security guards for churches? Under the current law, anyone with a firearm on church property is committing a misdemeanor. Even if there were a “carve out” in the law for armed security guards, Franklin believes there’s no reason why a church should have to hire guards when churchgoers have the right to carry arms.
“Why should the state prohibit churchgoers from saving themselves? asked Franklin.
John R. Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws,” has noted: “Generally, the crimes most likely to be deterred by concealed-handgun laws are those involving direct contact between the victim and the criminal, especially when they occur in places where victims otherwise would not be allowed to carry firearms. Aggravated assault, murder, robbery, and rape are [all] confrontational and likely to occur where guns were not previously allowed.”
Recent history documents the reason for concern.
In 1993, a group of radicals with grenades and AK-47s invaded a church in South Africa and began trying to kill everyone in sight.
Church attendee Charl van Wyk was carrying a .38 pistol and began shooting back at the terrorists. He wounded one of them and drove the others out of the church.
While 11 died and 58 were wounded, hundreds more could have been killed except for his quick actions.
The story is told in “Shooting Back: The Right And Duty Of Self Defense,” published by WND Books.
Van Wyk believes church carry laws are needed in all 50 states.
“Muslim and Communist groups are known to have attacked churches in Sudan, Mozambique, Indonesia, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and Southern Egypt. U.S. Christians must not think themselves exempt from such atrocities,” he said. “Gun-free zones are dangerous places.
“More than one year before the shooting rampage at the gun-free zone, Virginia Tech, the state’s general assembly quashed a bill that would have given qualified college students and employees the right to carry handguns on campus. Could one legally armed citizen have made a difference at this tragic event?”
Van Wyk continued, “We also need to ask the question: Do laws prohibiting firearms in certain places really prevent homicidal tragedies? There is a striking paradox associated with mass murders. They are far more likely to occur in areas that have been designated as gun-free zones.
“Worldwide, office buildings, hospitals, convenience stores, TV studios, chain restaurants and day-care centers, have all been targets of homicidal maniacs. Mass murders have taken place in such places after they have been declared gun-free zones,” he said.
“In 1999, John Lott and William Landes published a U.S. study of multiple shooting incidents. They showed that mass shootings occur less often in areas where responsible citizens may carry weapons,” van Wyk said. “Mass murderers select soft targets for their acts of violence. Expecting a suicidal individual to honor a law prohibiting firearms, is crazy.”
Georgia isn’t alone in considering armed church attendees. Last year, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal signed a gun carry law that permits churchgoers to carry weapons into the sanctuary. The law, which went into effect Aug. 15, allows holders of weapons permits with an additional eight hours of tactical training each year to bring a gun into any church, synagogue, mosque or similar place of worship.
The law also requires that the head of the house of worship announce either in print or verbally that its members may be carrying weapons.
Over the past few years, there have been numerous cases of violence against helpless churchgoers in their houses of worship:
- In February 2010, three hooded men entered the New Gethsemane Church of God in Christ in Richmond, Calif., and began firing at churchgoers.
- In November 2009 a man entered the St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Knanaya Church in New Jersey and killed his estranged wife and an innocent bystander.
- In 2007, Mathew Murray, an angry gunman, shot and killed two Christian youth workers at a Youth With a Mission facility in a Denver suburb, then went to New Life Church in Colorado Springs and opened fire on churchgoers. He killed two more before being shot by Jeanne Assam, a volunteer church security guard. Murray died of a self-inflicted wound, but Assam’s shot kept him from slaughtering hundreds of churchgoers. Assam was a former Minneapolis police officer who was licensed to carry a concealed weapon.
- In 2006, a man opened fire in a Baton Rouge, La., church and killed four churchgoers. He abducted his wife from the service and later killed her.
- In 1999, a killer entered the Wedgwood Baptist Church in Texas and used a semi-automatic handgun to kill seven churchgoers.
HB 54 is in a judicial committee and if not passed during the current 40-day legislative session, it will still be alive next year for a vote.