As I wrote almost a year ago, every church should have one or more good guys with guns protecting the flock. Every synagogue, temple and mosque. Anyplace people gather to worship should have a ballistic response ready for the worst case scenario. Does yours have one? It should to improve church safety.
The first step in creating a safer house of worship involves recognizing that evil does exist. And that sometimes worldly evil will invade sacred locations. Only fools expect bad people to honor society’s norms in and outside of churches. Burying one’s head in the sand doesn’t keep anyone safe. Just ask the do-gooder couple who hiked through ISIS-controlled territory.
Some folks think that creating a security team for their church simply involves finding volunteers to carry guns to church services. Not so. While that’s better than nothing, when well-meaning people only have a hammer, every problem can ten to look like a nail.
Want to get a church security team off the ground in your house or worship? First off, get off on the right foot. Call it a “safety team.” Good word choice will help keep your flock from becoming alarmed. Most folks don’t want to think about the need for armed security in their church, but everyone can rally behind “safety.”
Once you have a team willing to do more than carry a gun, spend some money on good communications. Get radios. Issue them to ushers, greeters and security folks. Greeters and ushers can discretely report potential problems. In fact, your greeters stand as the congregation’s eyes and ears, evaluating everyone at the entry points as they welcome them at services. They will often identify potential problems first – including both security- and health-related issues.
Conversely, if security detects a problem and can communicate instantly, ushers and greeters can immediately help direct the flock away from that threat.
Surveillance cameras help too. Church congregations face a greater risk of criminal violence (robbery) in the parking lots than they do when sitting in the pews. Watching cameras can detect suspicious behavior from non-church members. In larger churches, roving patrols in cars or golf carts can go a long way to deter criminal activity.
Just like schools, churches should lock their doors shortly after services begin. A greeter can welcome latecomers at a locked door. However, why make it easy for a lunatic to invade the sanctuary at an unmanned, unlocked door when everyone’s attention is directed at the preacher?
Included in the safety plan: good first aid skills. Frankly, knowing some basic first aid and how to use an AED or perform CPR will likely save far more lives than that gun on the hip.
Frankly, safety team members should have good skills at de-escalating potential violence, too. Knowing the basics of talking people down while taking steps to lessen one’s personal risk help. And if the verbal judo fails, knowing some hands-on tactics can help quickly restrain troublemakers for police without the need for a full-on brawl.
Ideally, off-duty local law enforcement members of the congregation will join the team.
Lastly, those select safety team members with guns should face a vetting process with church leaders. Yes, while anyone legally able
may should carry during a church service, safety team members represent the church to some degree. And the last thing any house of worship needs is an ill-trained, gun-toting “security team” member pulling a gun over a mildly-heated child custody dispute near the kids’ area during or after a service.
I still remember after the Sutherland Springs church shooting in Texas, people approached me asking about the legality of carrying without a license in church here in Illinois. God bless those Christians for volunteering.
On one hand, these well-meaning men and women expressed a willingness to protect their family and friends from bad people. On the other hand, they didn’t even know the law on carrying on private property in Illinois. Will they have a good handle on the nuances of deadly force law to keep themselves out of jail afterwards? I hope so, but I doubt it.
I would think some training on the legal use of deadly force is reasonable and prudent. Especially for those who wish to formalize their role providing security in their church.
While I’d prefer well-trained (and well-armed) gun owners in a time of trouble, I would eagerly welcome even any gun owner over a whole passel of hysterical Moms Demanding Action cowering under pews or desks. And you should too.
Stephen Willeford, pictured above, proved that in Sutherland Springs. Mr. Willeford didn’t have a background as a Navy SEAL or police officer. Instead, as John Q. Public, he courageously engaged a maniac and stopped the shooter’s attack at the nearby First Baptist Church. In fact, Willeford’s shots put down the murderous attacker, saving taxpayers the cost of incarcerating the killer.
If your church doesn’t have a safety team, take the initiative to start one. The life you save might be your own.