Valdosta Daily Times

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January 8, 2013

Gun ban in Ga. churches upheld

ATLANTA — The U.S. Supreme Court won’t overturn a Georgia law banning firearms in churches and other places of worship.

The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from GeorgiaCarry.org, which wanted the justices to overturn a lower court decision upholding Georgia’s law banning guns in churches and other places of worship.

“We’re disappointed, of course. But it’s not particularly surprising because they take so few cases,” said John Monroe, a lawyer for GeorgiaCarry.

The lawsuit brought by GeorgiaCarry and the Rev. Jonathan Wilkins of the Baptist Tabernacle of Thomaston had argued that the ban applying specifically to places of worship burdens “religiously motivated conduct by regulating how or what a worshipper can do with a weapon while he is worshipping.”

Wilkins, who had said he wanted to have a gun for protection while working in the church office, could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit. The U.S. Supreme Court, without comment, refused to reconsider that ruling.

Despite the setback, Monroe said the fight isn’t over.

“We’ll keep working to try to get a legislative change,” he said.

An incoming House Republican, Charles Gregory of Kennesaw, has pre-filed bills for the upcoming legislative session that would do away with many restrictions on carrying guns in Georgia, including in churches. Monroe said he expects to see other bills filed and is optimistic about the outcome. Legislative leaders have given no indication that such measures would be a priority.

Georgia lawmakers in 2010 lifted restrictions that had long banned gun owners from bringing their weapons into public gatherings.

But the overhaul left intact restrictions that prohibited bringing guns into government buildings, courthouses, jails and prisons, state mental health facilities, nuclear plants and houses of worship. It also restricted owners from bringing weapons into bars without permission from the owner. Critics of the law argue that churches shouldn’t be included in the restrictions, which mostly involve public buildings.

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