Special Report: Guns in Churches

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  Could Georgians soon be able to carry concealed guns anywhere, even college campuses, schools, sports events,  even churches?

The Georgia legislature could this year change the state concealed firearm law, making it legal for licensed gun owners to carry weapons anywhere except in courthouses, jails, or prisons.

Kathy receives combat firearm training twice a week, before she starts carrying her 9 millimeter Glock in her holster for self protection.  She has a Georgia conceal weapon license.

"We should be able to take it wherever we need to," Kathy said.

Current Georgia law says even licensed people like Kathy can't take their weapons into public gatherings, giving examples of that as sports events, publicly owned buildings, or churches.

House Bill 615 if passed would mean licensed gun carriers could take them to worship at churches like The Pointe. Pastor Bryan Gerstel says no thanks.

"If I have a message that doesn't hit somebody right, what's my risk of being shot," said Pastor Bryan Gerstel of The Pointe.

Pastor John Weaver of Freedom Baptist Ministries in Fitzgerald believes in gun rights. "I carry a Glock," Weaver said.

And Weaver said if the law passes he would welcome guns in his church.  "You have a Biblical precedent, a constitutional precedent, and a historical precedent as well."

GeorgiaCarry.org is an advocacy group of more than 5,000 members pushing to throw out the public gathering clause, saying it only prohibits honest gun owners.

"You are not the person that is the problem," said GeorgiaCarry.org board member Chuck Turney. "You're not the criminal. Criminals don't bother to get a license.  We feel you should be able to carry anywhere but a jail or a courthouse."

Albany State University Police train to be ready if a shooter invades their campus. Some say if students or faculty or parishioners had guns massacres like at Virginia Tech or Columbine could have been stopped.

"There are probably at least a dozen incidents like this within just the last few years.  So very obviously if someone in the church had a weapon and was trained to use it, then they could head off some of these senseless attacks,"  Weaver said.

"All of them packing guns, and just imagine one person pulled one," said Albany State Police Chief Roberson Brown. "Another one pulled one trying to help this one, and bullets flying all over the place."

Supporters point out churches as private property owners could say no.

"I don't even want to have to consider putting up a sign that would tell somebody 'Don't bring your gun into church,'" Gerstel said.

Kathy, like thousands of other Georgians, wants her rights to self protection all the time. "I don't need someone else to take care of me. I don't have to wait for the police to come. I just feel safe."

GeorgiaCarry. org says more than 300,000 Georgians like Kathy are conceal weapon license holders, and state legislators will have to keep that in mind if the bills come to a vote this session.

Another part of House Bill 615 would prevent cities or counties from writing laws circumventing state gun carry laws, and deny state officials from limiting concealed carry during a declared emergency.

There are other similar bill proposals now, like Senate Bill 9 and Senate Bill 281, and House Bill 819.

GeorgiaCarry.org calls itself 'Georgia's no-compromise voice for gun owners.'

  • GCO believes that citizens of Georgia and the United States have the right to own and carry the firearm of their choice for any reason other than to commit a crime. GCO works tirelessly to ensure that the rights of gun owners are not compromised by the Georgia General Assembly and local officials.

  • Click HERE to visit their website.

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