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.”
Standard capacity magazines.
“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’.”
The Kirpan is traditional, but it’s also a symbol. Sikhs some places are forbidden to wear the swords as local laws oppress them, and are left with daggers, or even pocketknives or pins in the shape of a kirpan.
Guru Gobind Singh clearly chose these words very deliberately – He did not state that the Khalsa was the army of the Khalsa or an army of the Sikhs or the army of Punjab – but an Army of God whose function was the protection and safeguarding of all the peoples of God regardless of religion, race or creed.
Mr. Khalsa makes an especially relevant point in that Sikhs themselves, who by their religion must protect the oppressed, have also become targets of madmen.
Mr. Khalsa, in his lawsuit, argues that the “sword” goes beyond the literal object.
“Decrees from the Tenth Sikh Guru state in the most vigorous and clear words that a Sikh’s conception of God is the sword of dharma,” he argues. “Not only the sword but every weapon became an attributive symbol of God for the Sikhs.”
Sikhism teaches that all of humanity was created by the Onkar, which is addressed by many names and understood differently. Sikhism teaches to respect all other religions (tolerance) and that one should defend the rights of not just one’s own religion but the religion and faith of others as a human right. At the end of every Sikh prayer is a supplication for the welfare of all of humanity. ( Tere Bhanne Sarbat Da Bhala )
Denying them modern arms is religious oppression:
The lawsuit also says that California’s laws infringe on the Second and 14th Amendment rights of Mr. Khalsa and others.
Mr. Khalsa, the suit reads, “fears arrest, criminal prosecution, incarceration, and fine if he were to possess loaded weapons with 11 or more round magazines within his home, within his vehicle on the streets, or within his temple. But his religious beliefs require no less.”
One of their religion’s core tenets, again, is defense of the rights one one’s own and of others’ faith, and defense from oppression for all. Mr. Khalsa gets it.