LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A gun-toting Kentucky pastor says it's OK to bring weapons to church — at least for one day.
Ken Pagano asked his flock to bring their unloaded handguns — in holsters — to New Bethel Church in Louisville for a celebration of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Consitution that guarantees the right to bear arms.
When the event got under way Saturday, about 200 people — many carrying small firearms — sat in the Pentecostal church sanctuary.
"We are wanting to send a message that there are legal, civil, intelligent and law-abiding citizens who also own guns," Pagano said in greeting the audience, which included people who do not belong to his church.
"If it were not for a deep-seated belief in the right to bear arms, this country would not be here today," he said, drawing hearty applause and exclamations of "amen!"
Pagano says he got the idea for the event after some of his church members expressed concern about the Obama administration's views on gun control, though the president hasn't moved to put new restrictions on gun ownership. He says the gathering was meant to promote safe gun ownership.
The "Open Carry Celebration" included a handgun raffle, patriotic music and screening of videos on gun safety. The church hung patriotic banners on the wall that read "In God We Trust."
The pastor said that he himself did not carry a gun at the event.
Pagano's Protestant church, which attracts up to 150 people to Sunday services, is a member of the Assemblies of God and is in a conservative part of southwest Louisville.
A coalition of peace and church groups staged a gun-free event across town at the same time.