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US pastor opens church to guns

Gun-toting parishioners listen to Pastor Ken in church
Gun-toting parishioners attended Pastor Ken Pagano's service in Kentucky

A pastor in the US state of Kentucky told his flock to bring handguns to church in what he said was an effort to promote safe gun ownership.

Pastor Ken Pagano told parishioners to bring their unloaded guns to New Bethel Church in Louisville for a service celebrating the right to bear arms.

He said he acted after church members voiced fears the Obama administration could tighten gun control laws.

When the service began, some 200 people were present, AP news agency said.

"We are wanting to send a message that there are legal, civil, intelligent and law-abiding citizens who also own guns," Mr Pagano told the congregation.

"If it were not for a deep-seated belief in the right to bear arms, this country would not be here today," he said.

Ken Pagano, pastor of New Bethel Church in Louisville, Kentucky
Pastor Ken Pagano says he wants to show that gun owners are law-abiding

The pastor also held a handgun raffle, as well as providing information on gun safety.

"I wish more churches did this, I wish more people did this," the Louisville Courier-Journal quoted one attendee, Doreen Rogers, as saying.

"For some reason, most people think that carrying guns is sinful. It's not. I think my life is worth protecting."

About 10 members of a private local militia also attended, the Courier-Journal said.

A coalition of religious groups and campaigners held a rival gun-free event at the same time on the other side of Louisville.

"The idea of wearing guns to churches or any sacred space I think many people find deeply troubling," organiser Terry Taylor told AP.

In the US, the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. There are thought to be more than 200 million firearms in private hands.

But some gun owners fear that the new administration in the White House could try to challenge or amend some gun ownership laws.

Critics of the laws, meanwhile, link high levels of gun crime with high levels of gun ownership.



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