Thursday, April 14, 2011

Good and Sufficient Reason

Section 18.2-283 of the Virginia Code provides that "[i]f any person carry any gun, pistol ... or other dangerous weapon, without good and sufficient reason, to a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held at such place he shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor."

Many in Virginia wish worshipers to be unarmed. Of course, they mean well.

When Del. Mark Cole's bill to clarify the phrase "good and sufficient reason" and codify the practice of carrying arms into houses of worship was killed in subcommittee, he asked Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to clarify the meaning of the statute.

His resultant opinion was reasoned and qualified. The PDF can be found here.

In short, his conclusion was this:
Accordingly, it is my opinion that carrying a weapon for personal protection constitutes a good
and sufficient reason under the statute to carry a weapon into a place of worship while a meeting for religious purposes is being held there and it is further my opinion that places of worship can restrict or ban firearms from their premises.
The Times Dispatch quoted Del. McEachin of Henrico and Rabbi Romer of Congregation Or Ami in their protestation of the opinion.

Calling it "an extreme legal opinion," the group Virginians for Responsible Gun Laws blasted the opinion with statements from state Sen. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico and Rabbi Ben Romer of Congregation Or Ami.

"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," said Romer.

"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."

McEachin, a lawyer and an ordained minister, said faith communities that don't want weapons in services 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."

What Del. McEachin and Rabbi Romer refuse to accept is that houses of worship, though they are supposed to be peaceful places, can still be scenes of violence. " communities......will be forced to..... ensure that guns are not present."

Really? If that is so, why did the houses of worship not have to do that before the AG rendered his opinion? Does he think that those wishing to carry a weapon, having read the code, did not make their own interpretation? Nothing in that code PROHIBITS OUTRIGHT the carrying of a weapon.

And Rabbi? "Turning the other cheek" doesn't really fit your religion, does it? When most hate crimes are directed at Jews, do you truly want your congregation to be completely defenseless? Just because you qualified your answer with your military background, that background means nothing. The military is the most pro-gun control organization in the US. So, your attitude is understandable.

And now for the big question....What gives YOU the right to decide for the OTHER houses of worship? That is the truly extreme position.

One of the members of my church, who is in law enforcement, also acts as armed security while she is there. Please, other than the ability to arrest people and take them to jail, what difference is there between her and a law abiding armed citizen?

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