Monday, April 18, 2011

Virginia attorney general OKs guns in church with 'good and sufficient reason,' whatever that is

The Virginia attorney general's advisory opinion released last week on carrying weapons in houses of worship has sparked strong reactions, but guns in churches are not uncommon in some parts of the state. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's opinion, which said people with "good and sufficient reason” to carry a weapon can do so in a house of worship, has led some to call "it an affront to the tradition of the church as a sanctuary from violence," Susan Kinzie of The Washington Post reports. "Others said: 'Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!'"

A 1632 Virginia law required men to bring their guns to church, Kinzie writes. "In case of an attack on Sunday, when everyone is assembled at church, they don’t have to disperse to get their arms," S. Max Edelson, an associate professor of history at the University of Virginia, told Kinzie. Today many Virginians "carry guns openly at places such as grocery stores, parks and some polling places. Some conceal the weapons if they have a permit to do so," Kinzie writes.

"But as more people move into the state and the culture shifts from rural to urban — especially in Northern Virginia — the way people see guns has been changing," Kinzie writes. Rev. Jonathan Barton, head of the Virginia Council of Churches, recalls a groom asking to carry his gun during his wedding an says he was saddened by Cuccinelli's opinion. "A house of worship is for celebration of life," he told Kinzie, "and to carry a concealed weapon into that space is to violate that sacred space." (Read more)

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