Sikh man cites religion in lawsuit against gun controls

by David Sherfinski, The Washington Times  |  published on March 31, 2013

sikh

A Sikh man is suing the state of California over its gun laws, arguing they violate his First Amendment rights to practice his religion by barring him from carrying the kind of weapons he says he needs for self-defense.

Gursant Singh Khalsa, a practicing Sikh for 35 years, charges in the lawsuit filed this month that California’s laws banning military-style, semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines violate mainstream Sikh doctinre requiring Sikhs “be at all time fully prepared to defend themselves and others against injustice.”

“We’re required to wear what’s called a kirpan” or dagger, he said Thursday. “I feel, as far as my religion goes, it dictates that we should have all weapons of all kinds to defend ourselves. By not being able to carry an assault rifle or weapon that has a high-capacity magazine, I don’t feel that I can defend myself or my family.”

Mr. Khalsa, who lives in Yuba City about 40 miles north of Sacramento, said he believes such a right should be available to all Americans with the proper training but that it’s also specific to the Sikh religion, which has roots deeply tied to self-defense.

“Some splinter groups attempt this by wearing symbolic miniature daggers in their turbans, to comply with this requirement,” he argues in the lawsuit, filed in federal court in California. “But mainstream Sikhs believe this requirement is a literal and true moral duty. As Guru Gobind Singh instructed his Sikhs; ‘Without uncut hair and weapons do not come before me’.”

Gurpatwant Pannun, a lawyer with the New York-based advocacy group Sikhs for Justice, said that carrying a sword is indeed a part of the religion, but wasn’t sure that the letter of the religion extends to carrying so-called assault weapons.

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