The governor of Georgia last night approved an “unprecedented” gun law which will let people carry guns into church.
The so-called “guns everywhere” bill will allow the congregation to enter their place of worship armed, including at Sunday service.
Teachers will also be able to take firearms to school and gun owners will be allowed to carry their weapon into airports.
The legislation is being seen as a victory for gun rights campaigners, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) described it as “the most comprehensive pro-gun reform legislation introduced in recent state history”.
But anti-violence campaigners and religious leaders are horrified. Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was wounded after being shot at a rally in 2011, called it the “most extreme gun bill in America”.
The law Republican Georgia governor Nathan Deal signed is called the “Safe Carry Protection Act” and it has already been approved by the state legislature.
The law, which will come into effect on 1 July, removes the need for fingerprint checks when renewing weapons licences and the state will be barred from keeping a database of weapons carriers.
Police will not be able to stop somebody simply to see if they have a gun permit, a move which has caused outrage among senior officers.
Anyone with a gun licence will be able to take their weapon into a bar, a cinema, some government buildings and even non-restricted areas of airports such as ticketing halls and car parks.
Among those voicing opposition has been Stephanie Stone, whose only son Paul was shot and killed in an armed robbery in 2012.
She said the bill was “reckless … dangerous and irresponsible”.
Reverend Raphael Warnock of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta has said: “We must somehow resist the politics of fear, and embrace the politics of hope.”
Perhaps the most controversial part of the bill will be how it extends the “stand-your-ground” laws previously put in the spotlight in the case of George Zimmerman, who shot dead unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012.
Zimmerman, a neighbourhood watch member, was later cleared of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Under the Georgia law, even convicted felons could use the stand-your-ground laws if they felt threatened.
Joseph Kennedy, a professor of law at the University of North Carolina, has branded this part of the Georgia law a “recipe for unnecessary killing”.
Even critics of the legislation admit that, perversely, its genesis was the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 which left 20 children and six adults dead.
President Obama tried to introduce tougher background checks and ban the sale of assault rifles, but the law stalled in Congress under pressure from the NRA.
Critics of the White House, already angry at the President’s healthcare legislation, saw this as yet another attempt by the federal government to interfere and the law became a lightning rod issue.
As a result, eight states have loosened their firearms law since Sandy Hook and ten have made it tougher, according to the San Francisco-based Law Centre to Prevent Gun Violence,
More recently, a spate of shootings in Chicago have refocused attention on gun violence.
Over the Easter weekend at least eight people were killed and around 45 people were injured by guns in the city, which has earned the unfortunate nickname of “Chiraq”.
As he signed the law, Governor Deal said he was doing so to protect Second Amendment rights.
He said: “People who follow the rules can protect themselves and their families from people who don’t follow the rules.”