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Ministers duel over guns in church bill

6:43 AM, Mar 26, 2013   |    comments
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  • church steeple
  • Atlanta clergy opposed to guns in church bill
  • Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple on Peachtree
  • Rev. Ray Newman of Braselton's Macedonia Community Baptist Church
  • Rev. Raphael Warnock of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church
    

ATLANTA -- Some of Georgia's more prominent religious leaders faced off Monday over a controversial gun bill that would allow firearms in some of the state's churches.

"This is the last place on earth that people can go to get away from the violence that's so prevalent in our world," said Rabbi Peter Berg of The Temple on Peachtree.

Rabbi Berg joined nearly two dozen other clergy outside the State Capitol to protest against Senate Bill 101.

Among other places, the bill would allow anyone over 21 who has a gun carry license to take a gun into a church that wants them there.

The provision would only apply to churches that "opt in" to the proposal.

Even though it would not apply to churches that object, the group of protesting ministers insisted guns have no place in any house of worship.

"The law is clear right now, no guns are allowed in our churches and we didn't ask to opt in," said Rev. Raphael Warnock of Atlanta's famous Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Warnock said he doesn't know any ministers who would welcome guns in their sanctuaries, but there are some.

"That's for the protection of the members and for the protection of those who've come there to worship," Rev. Ray Newman told 11Alive News.

The pastor of Braselton's Macedonia Community Baptist Church is one of several, many in rural areas, who want the right to decide for themselves.

Especially smaller ones, that can't afford off duty police officers as security, say they would like to have the choice of arming members to help protect them from violence directed at churches.

"If they have someone already in their congregation that they know and trust that has a concealed carry permit, they should be allowed to do that, I think," said Rev. Newman.

Equally controversial is the bill's proposal to allow licensed adult gun owners to carry on pubic college campuses, except in dormitories and at sporting events.

The University System of Georgia is adamantly opposed to it.

Another controversial section would allow Georgia's public school systems to decide if they want to train and arm administrators to help protect their K-12 campuses.

Last Friday the State House passed SB101, but with changes.

Both the House and Senate are insisting on their version of the bill with little time left in the session, which ends at midnight Friday morning.

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