Faith Leaders, Sen. McEachin React to Cuccinelli on Guns in Church

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    The following press release is from Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws, reacting to Ken Kookinelli’s latest lunacy.

    CUCCINELLI’S CONTROVERSIAL OPINION ON GUNS IN CHURCHES PROMPTS ACTION FROM FAITH LEADERS, GENERAL ASSEMBLY

    Richmond, VA-Faith leaders and others are reacting strongly to an extreme legal opinion issued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on Monday.  In the opinion, Cuccinelli indicated that Virginia residents may carry loaded firearms into places of worship while religious services are being conducted for personal protection.

    Cuccinelli suggested that, “carrying a weapon for personal protection constitutes a ‘good and sufficient reason’ under the statute” because the “right of self-defense lies at the heart of the right to keep and bear arms.”  The legal opinion came in response to a request from state Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg).  Del. Cole was the sponsor of a bill during the 2010 legislative session that would have made it legal for concealed handgun permit holders to carry a handgun into a place of worship during religious services with the permission of the institution.  The bill was never taken up and died in committee.

    State Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Richmond) responded by announcing plans to introduce legislation during the 2012 legislative session that would prevent the carrying of firearms in places of worship under any circumstances. “Once again, the Attorney General governs by fiat and by his opinion rather than by the constitutional process of legislation,” said Senator McEachin.

    “This very bill was introduced in the 2010 General Assembly Session, only to be left in committee by members of his own Party, never even to make it to a Floor vote. Republicans in the House of Delegates opposed this legislation and defeated it, but rather than accept the legislative process and therefore, the will of the people, the Attorney General has seen fit, once again, to overrule and ignore the Virginia General Assembly with its duly elected representatives of the people, and simply impose his own will on the Commonwealth.”

    Senator McEachin continued, “I cannot imagine a need to carry guns in places of worship where people go to seek peace, prayer and solace.  Now, thanks to the Attorney General, if a faith community does not wish guns at their services, they will be forced to post signs and expend funds to ensure guns are not present. The assumption will be that guns can be there, even if they are contrary to the spirit of the religious service and the desires of the congregants.  If this is truly what Virginians want, then the bill needs to be passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor. Are the Attorney General and his cohorts afraid of a real and honest debate on this issue? Are they afraid that the vote will turn out as it did previously?  Is the Attorney General so determined to kowtow to radical gun organizations that he does not want to allow faith leaders to have the opportunity to express their opinions on this subject?  Next Session, I will put in a bill to not have guns in places of worship and then an honest debate on the merits of this policy can occur, culminating in a vote by all the elected representatives in the General Assembly. This serious decision can then be made by the people, not by a single individual’s political grandstanding.”

    Rabbi Ben Romer of Congregation Or Ami said, “As a faith leader and retired United States Army Chaplain, I am appalled at Attorney General Cuccinelli’s reckless personal opinion that guns are allowed in houses of worship. I never allowed them in my synagogue or while a military chaplain in any chapel, even when deployed to combat zones in Panama, Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo.  Our houses of worship are intentional spiritual places of sanctity and safety.  Allowing weapons into a holy location devoted to wellness and healing is morally reprehensible.”

    Pastor Alex Evans of the Second Presbyterian Church said, “Wouldn’t it be better to work on a safer society than on more guns, violence, and fear?  Certainly, when we gather for worship we want to be focused on God’s call for our lives-not how many guns are in the sanctuary or synagogue.  At that moment, we are seeking more peace and purpose, not increased anxiety.  The prophet Amos reminds us to ‘seek good and not evil, that we will live’ (5:12).  More guns in more places feels like more evil to me.”

    “We look forward to working with Sen. McEachin and the faith community to reverse Ken Cuccinelli’s end run around our legislature,” said Lori Haas of Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws.  “In the long list of public places where Virginians don’t need to be carrying guns, places of worship are right at the top.”