Stephen Kent

The mass murders in a Colorado movie theater and in a Connecticut elementary school provoked a flurry of gun control legislation throughout the nation. Since the Newtown, Conn., killing of 26 students and staff, several states have passed laws to tighten gun restrictions. And there were other laws passed to loosen them.

When the Safe Carry Protection Act of 2014 becomes one of those laws effective in Georgia on July 1, it will allow guns in bars, schools, restaurants, churches and certain areas of airports.

In signing the bill, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal called it “a great day to reaffirm our liberties.” Americans for Responsible Solutions called it “the most extreme gun bill in America.”

It does have some limitations. A person with a concealed weapons permit may bring a gun into a bar as long as they do not consume alcohol, initiating a new concept of the “designated shooter.” Schools may appoint staff members to carry weapons.

And in no little irony, since Atlanta is the site of the country’s busiest airport, guns will be permitted in prescreening public areas — the same type of location from which the shooter at Los Angeles International Airport fired when gunning down and killing a Transportation Security Administration agent and wounding others.


Licensed gun holders now are not permitted to carry a firearm into a Catholic church. That will not change, even under the new law, says the Atlanta Archdiocese.

“The last thing we need is more firearms in public places, especially in those places frequented by children and the vulnerable,” said Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory.

The new law also includes “stand your ground” defense, which allows someone who believes his life is in danger to shoot to kill.

Such laws are promoted as a form of protection to defend family, home and hearth. Evidence is weak with the use of presumptive statistics about the number of lives saved versus the very concrete number of people killed by firearms. Some fatal shootings are not in self-defense: arguing over texting in a movie theater, a teen killed in dispute over loud music.

“I think a well-armed family is a safe family,” said Rick Santorum, a once and possibly future presidential candidate, during a National Rifle Association convention. “A well-armed America is a safer America.”

It’s all about creating paranoia for profit.

The National Rifle Association, which claims 4.5 million members, does good things. It conducts safety classes and trains young people. But it is when it moves beyond being a users group type of organization into a social force to unreasonably seek unlimited rights for firearms that it separates itself from the mainstream.

Organizations are expected to look out for the interests of members, but within reason. If AAA were the NRA, it would object to requiring vehicle registration, licensing of drivers and most laws seen to be interfering with an absolute right to own and operate a motor vehicle.

Let’s drop the stereotypes. Those who enjoy possessing and the use of firearms are not deranged killers. Those who want some reasonable control over dangerous objects are not wild-eyed liberals intent on turning the country over to whatever.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in an interview that he was “devastated” by the recent shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, and will work to do more to prevent mass shootings.

“I think we need to do more. I want solutions before I leave office,” he said.

Good luck with that. It has been 20 years since Congress passed any meaningful gun control legislation.

Meanwhile, when in Georgia, feel free to strap on the ol’ .357 Magnum and go to church on Sunday to hear “blessed are the peacemakers” — certainly not a reference to the Colt .45 revolver that “won the West.”


Kent is the retired editor of archdiocesan newspapers in Omaha and Seattle. Contact him at: