‘We are fighting for our right to bear arms’

“An armed society is a polite society,” says Jerry Henry, executive director of the gun lobby Georgia Carry.

Since the group’s founding in 2007, Henry and his fellow members, now 6,400 strong, have aggressively fought to allow Georgians to carry their guns in more places. Their lawsuit on behalf of an Upson County preacher challenging the constitutionality of a state ban on firearms in places of worship is pending in federal court; they lost the first round, but the case is on appeal. The group also is trying to do away with the gun ban at the Legislature, as well as overturn restrictions on guns in school safety zones.

We caught up with Henry, 66, a farrier by trade, at a Chick-fil-A in Hapeville. He was carrying his gun. He also was extremely polite.

Q: What is your group's stand in a nutshell?

A: We are fighting for our right to bear arms. I have a right to protect myself anywhere a bad guy can be. In a perfect world, you shouldn't need a gun anywhere.

Q: Why do you need legislation specifically relating to churches?

A: Churches are the only private property in Georgia where the state expressly prohibits people from carrying a gun. If you pass a law that says I can't carry my gun in church, you are giving the criminal the upper hand.

Q: What if I don't want members of my church carrying guns?

A: This is not to force a church to allow me to carry a gun but to allow a church to decide. If I don't like what my church decides I can go to another church. Most small churches don't have the money to hire security. They feel they are sitting ducks.

Q: Are places of worship really that dangerous?

A: Google "church shootings." Look at how Dr. Martin Luther King's mother died — shot while sitting at the organ at her church in downtown Atlanta.

Q: Is there any place where you think a person should not be allowed to carry a gun?

A: I can't think of one offhand. We have stipulated that we would not fight restrictions on carrying a gun in courtrooms, jails and prisons.

Q: What about schools?

A: If you look at where mass shootings happen, they happen in gun-free zones. Virginia Tech is a gun-free zone. Columbine [High School] is a gun-free zone. Gun-free zones are almost like hunting in a baited field.

Q: If allowing ordinary citizens to carry guns everywhere is such a good idea, why is law enforcement so against it?

A: There are always going to be bad people in every group, even in law enforcement. There is nothing that stops them from having all the firepower they want.

Q: Bottom line: Guns make people safer?

A: There's a saying we have: God made men and women. Samuel Colt made them equal.

The Sunday conversation is edited for length and clarity. Writer Ann Hardie can be reached by e-mail at ann.hardie@ymail.com.

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