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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

More on AG Cuccinelli Self Defense in Houses of Worship Opinion

A number of media outlets yesterday reported on Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's opinion that self-defense is sufficient cause for carrying a fiream in houses of worship during regular services.  Most of the outlets carried the AP report written by Bob Lewis.

Current law is somewhat unclear in that it prohibits carrying during regular services "without good and sufficient reason."  Unfortunately, the legislature did not define what constitutes good and sufficient reason.  In steps Delegate Mark Cole who asked the AG for clarification in the form of an AG Opinion.
Cole said he sought the opinion the one-paragraph provision in the state's criminal statutes after receiving inquiries from some churches in his district resulting from recent deadly shootings in churches.

Gunfire last month killed the pastor of an Illinois church and wounded two people in the congregation.
Cuccinelli wrote that the self-defense is at the heart of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to keep and bear arms.
WAVY10 in Portsmouth ran this story on local reaction to the opinion.

The Brady Campaign reaction was typical.

Brian Malte, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said the opinion by the pro-gun Republican attorney general nudges Virginia closer toward making firearms more prevalent throughout society.

"Places of worship don't need loaded guns brought into them," Malte said. "The way Attorney General Cuccinelli states it, it looks like he's giving an opening to guns in churches, and we oppose that."
Rosalind S. Helderman somewhat parrots the Brady response when she wrote on the Washington Post Virginia Politics Blog:
The legal opinion comes in response to an inquiry from state Del. Mark Cole (R-Fredericksburg), who had sponsored an unsuccessful bill in 2010 to make it legal for a concealed weapons permit holder to carry a handgun in a place of worship during religious services with the permission of a religious leader.

If widely followed, Cuccinelli’s ruling would have the same effect — opening places of worship to weapons unless they are barred by the religious institution.
The AG stated that places of worship can choose to restrict or bar weapons if they wish, indicating that churches, synagogues, mosques and other institutions have a private property right to set their own rules with regards to guns.  AG opinions are only advisory and do not carry the force of law.

Hopefully, the AG's opinion will not cause a mad rush by churches to post "no guns" signs. That is a sure way for someone wishing to cause harm in a church to pick easy victims, as we have seen with other self-defense free zones.

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