Responding to Georgia's new "guns everywhere" law
, Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta has pledged to keep guns out of Catholic churches, schools and other institutions.
Writing in Thursday's Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Atlanta archdiocese, Gregory said he regretted the new law "more than I can possibly express," the National Catholic Reporter
said on Wednesday.
"Before this legislation takes effect in July, I will officially restrict the presence of weapons in our Catholic institutions except for those carried by the people that civic authorities have designated and trained to protect and guard us, and those who are duly authorized by law and military officials," Gregory wrote.
The law, which makes it easier for licensed gun owners to carry firearms into churches, bars, restaurants, and airports, is set to take effect July 1.
Georgia has always banned licensed weapons in churches, but the new legislation drops the penalty to a $100 fine and the legal charge to a misdemeanor.
It was opposed by the Georgia Catholic Conference, the National Catholic Reporter noted.
"The last thing we need is more firearms in public places, especially in those places frequented by children and the vulnerable," Gregory wrote.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed
the Safe Carry Protection Act on April 23, saying it strengthened the rights of gun ownership as outlined in the Constitution.
"The version of gun control that passed really offers churches no real protection, other than a fine for those licensed holders who might bring a weapon," Georgia Catholic Conference head Frank Mulcahy told the National Catholic Reporter.
In his column, Gregory said that "churches and other places of worship are intended to be sanctuaries – holy sites where people come to pray and to worship God."
"In this nation of ours, they have seldom been the locations where violence has disrupted the otherwise peaceful atmosphere," he added. "Yet even those occasions -- rare as they may be -- are not sufficient reasons to allow people to bring more weapons into God's house."
He charged that the new law "de facto makes firearms more available in places where they may allow violence to escalate."
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