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Opponents renew legal fight against handgun law
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The churches object to having to allow people with guns on their property unless they post signs prohibiting it or tell people not to bring them. They also don't like the provision permitting people to store guns in vehicles in church parking lots. (MPR file photo)

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - Opponents of a controversial state law covering who can carry a handgun in public resumed their legal fight Monday, a couple of months after the Legislature reinstated the measure the courts had struck down.

Two Twin Cities churches filed a new lawsuit in Hennepin County District Court, saying the law continues to violate religious freedom.

The law allows people at least 21 years old with a clean record, no mental illness and proper training to get a permit to carry a gun. Prior to 2003, local law enforcement authorities had more say over who received a permit.

Churches fought the law, arguing they shouldn't have to let guns on their property. One challenge that dealt with the 2003 process for passing the law led to its invalidation. But the 2005 Legislature made a slight change before reinstituting the law in May.

Attorneys David Lillehaug and Marshall Tanick, who respectively represent the Edina Community Lutheran Church and the Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul, are seeking an injunction that would free religious institutions from having to abide by it.

"We're not arguing about the wisdom of the law," Tanick said. "We're saying it's unconstitutional as it relates to religious institutions."

They are not suing over religious freedom. They are suing because they don't like guns.
- Joe Olson, Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance

Specifically, the churches object to having to allow people with guns on their property unless they post signs prohibiting it or tell people not to bring them. They also don't like the provision permitting people to store guns in vehicles in church parking lots.

The 2003 law required churches to both post signs -- which were described in great detail -- and verbally inform parishioners at the door that pistols were prohibited. The 2005 law lets them pick between the notification options.

Joe Olson, president of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance and a chief proponent of the law, said he expects the law to withstand further challenge.

"They are not suing over religious freedom. They are suing because they don't like guns," Olson said, adding later, "Essentially they want a special deal, and they want the state to come along and establish their religious beliefs as more important than someone else's personal safety."

The case was assigned to Judge LaJune Thomas Lange. A hearing date had not been set on Monday.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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