A state bill loosening gun restrictions, and opposed by the Georgia Catholic Conference, was signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal and will take effect July 1.
He said, “Before this legislation takes effect in July, I will officially restrict the presence of weapons in our Catholic institutions except for those carried by the people that civic authorities have designated and trained to protect and guard us—and those who are duly authorized law and military officials.”
“The last thing we need is more firearms in public places, especially in those places frequented by children and the vulnerable,” Archbishop Gregory wrote.
Previously Georgia houses of worship were a place where licensed holders were not permitted to carry guns.
The new law continues to prohibit weapons in houses of worship “unless the governing body or authority of the place of worship permits the carrying of weapons or long guns by license holders.”
However, the law also diminishes the penalty for carrying weapons in a house of worship to a $100 fine with no arrest permitted for a licensed gun holder. A person carrying a weapon without a license can be charged with a misdemeanor.
Gov. Deal signed House Bill 60 (previously House Bill 875) into law April 23.
When the bill passed the legislature in late March, Frank Mulcahy, director of the Georgia Catholic Conference, said that he had every confidence the bishops and pastors of Georgia would take appropriate action for protection of those entering churches.
“The version of gun control that passed really offers churches no real protection, other than a fine for those licensed holders who might bring a weapon,” said Mulcahy.
Archbishop Gregory, in his column, said, “Churches and other places of worship are intended to be sanctuaries—holy sites where people come to pray and to worship God.”
“In this nation of ours, they have seldom been the locations where violence has disrupted the otherwise peaceful atmosphere. Yet even those occasions—rare as they may be—are not sufficient reasons to allow people to bring more weapons into God’s house,” he said.
The archbishop’s column is available here.