In 2010, the State of Georgia enacted a law making it a misdemeanor offense for a person with a concealed weapons permit to carry a concealed weapon "in a place of worship." Several plaintiffs, including a church and its pastor, filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of this law.
The fundamental question before the court was whether a state law prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons in a church violates the constitutional rights of church members to bear arms and practice their religion. In January 2011, a federal court in Georgia said no.
That decision is going to an appeals court. One key point of the lower court’s decision was this:
"Although the Constitution protects a person's right to free exercise [of religion] only against governmental intrusion, it is clear that the protection of religious freedom against private bias or coercion is also an important governmental goal. Prohibiting the carrying of firearms in a place of worship bears a substantial relationship to that important goal by protecting attendees from the fear or threat of intimidation or armed attack."
It is amazing how ‘factually stupid’ some court rulings can be. The quote above was offered by the court as part of the reason why the Second Amendment guarantees can be preempted in this case. Notice how the court assumes that if concealed carry permit holders brought concealed weapons into a church building, it would amount to “private coercion” and would constitute a “threat of intimidation or armed attack.”
There are many odd points to this reasoning.
First, if that is a reason to preempt concealed carry, then it could be preempted everywhere. If the mere fact that someone could be carrying concealed weapons constitutes a “threat of armed attack” then that threat does not exist in church building only. It exists everywhere.
Also, as a matter of fact the misuse of weapons to threaten or attack innocent people by those with concealed carry permits is statistically almost non-existent. So, while a meteor might fall on me while mowing my yard, the likelihood of that happening is so small as to make it irrational to avoid mowing my yard for fear of being hit by a meteor. It is just as irrational for the court to, it appears, rely on this statistically insignificant possibility as a basis for its ruling.
Finally, what the empirical evidence shows is that we are generally safer in a population that contains armed citizens who are concealed carry permit holders. But such permit holders will usually obey the law as it stands. This means that in Georgia, they will either not attend church meetings, or do so unarmed. This also means that, like the Virginia Tech situation of a few years ago, someone who wants to commit multiple murders is fairly safe in choosing a church meeting in Georgia as a target. It would be a perfect place to kill many innocent people before anything could be done to stop the killing.
So the court made an assumption based, not on factual considerations, but on its own ideological suppositions. The court simply assumed that an armed concealed carry permit holder is a standing threat to those around him. That is simply false.
We can only hope that the appeals court reverses this rather idiotic decision. And we can only hope it is before someone bent on mass murder picks those at a church meeting as his victims. If that occurs, it will not be martyrdom. It will just be judicial stupidity.