A(nother) Word on Church Security

Law enforcement vehicles are seen parked outside West Freeway Church of Christ as authorities continue to investigate a fatal shooting at the church, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in White Settlement, Texas. (AP Photo/David Kent)

Six seconds. Thankfully, it took but six seconds for an armed good guy to put down the would-be spree killer at a Texas church on Sunday morning. Sadly, in those six seconds, the killer managed to kill two good men.

By now, you’ve probably seen the video of the attack. (CAUTION: Some might find this video disturbing.)

Two shot in six seconds is about average for spree killers’ initial volleys of fire. Every three or four seconds means another person dead or wounded.

You can do the math on the toll if it takes law enforcement five minutes to respond to an active shooter call. Five minutes. Three hundred seconds. In that time, the killer can amass quite a body count.

Give a spree killer a couple of hours to hunt down those hiding, as police did at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, and the casualty count goes far higher.

From CBS News:

As the largest mass shooting in modern U.S. history began to unfold, an off-duty police officer working at a gay nightclub exchanged gunfire with the suspect. But three hours passed before one of the nation’s most revered SWAT teams stormed the building and brought the attack in Orlando that left 49 people and the gunman dead to an end.

The decision by law enforcement to hold off on entering the club – where more than 100 people were shot, 49 of them killed – immediately raised questions among experts in police tactics. They said the lessons learned from other mass shootings show that officers must get inside swiftly – even at great risk – to stop the threat and save lives.

Unless good guys intervene. Good guys with the proper tools to mount a meaningful response. In the end, only good guys with guns can stop the bad person with evil in their heart.

I’ve written about the importance of armed security in places of worship several times.

In Security Strategies For Your Church Safety Team, I urged people attending religious services to consider the potential threats to their safety and security. Establishing a church safety team can save lives, as was so clearly demonstrated yesterday.

Every church should have one or more good guys with guns protecting the flock. Every synagogue. Every temple. Anyplace people gather to worship should have a ballistic response ready to an imminent, credible threat of grievous bodily harm or death.

Pistol packing parishioners protect the extended religious community as well as their own friends and family. Some have done so for years — both with and without the church leadership’s knowledge. Sometimes legally, sometimes not.

At the same time, they should make sure they pick the right people to serve on their church safety team.

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 tend to look like a nail.

On the other hand, some congregations and even entire denominations steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that evil exists. Or take meaningful steps to protect their flocks.

Take the Monsey, New York attack on Saturday night. A man used a machete to attack a Hanukkah celebration and began hacking at worshipers. Unlike the Texas church, no one there had the tools to stop that would-be killer.

The Monsey attack counted as but one of eight anti-Semitic attacks in the past week in New York. The suspect in at least one of those attacks left jail without posting a dime for bail thanks to New York’s new “affordable bail” program.

The Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue stands as another example of decisions and their consequences. The rabbi there forbade his congregation to carry guns at services.

The day a lunatic showed up and started killing 11 people and maiming others, stern words and hasty prayers did nothing to stem the blood loss. In fact, Tree of Life Rabbi Jeffrey Myers advocated for more gun control. With decisions came deadly consequences.

In Some Proven Strategies For a Successful Church Safety Team, I covered setting up (or beefing up) a church safety team. While guns might seem appealing to some well-meaning good guys, knowing CPR and basic first aid, along with employing proven strategies for mitigating more mundane everyday risks will prove far more beneficial for churchgoers.

At the same time, having one or more people there with some iron will save lives if the worst happens.

Meanwhile, the video of Sunday’s attack in Texas showed a hooded man with bulky clothing. It looked like their church safety team had already dialed this guy in for extra scrutiny. Obviously, anyone wearing a hood in church should merit additional attention.  And they gave it to him.

When the killer stood up, things quickly escalated. Some have speculated the killer fumbled with the safety on his pistol-gripped shotgun. Others wonder if he had something like robbery on his mind.

Either way, one church attendee (and possibly member of the security contingent) made the fatal mistake of attempting to draw down on an armed adversary without so much as moving “off the X.” Give him kudos for bravely facing down an armed lunatic.

Hearing the little girl cry out “Daddy no!” over and over in the video is tough to take. Thankfully, the brave man’s sacrifice did not go to waste as it gave others crucial time to engage.

A second man, who looked like he might have been an usher, took a shotgun blast and later died of his wounds as well.

At that point, a safety team member — now identified as 71-year-old Jack Wilson — calmly drew and fired one shot as the killer moved to take out the pastor. He put the killer down for the count. Huge kudos to him for making a great shot under immense pressure against a moving target.

Additional armed members of the congregation swarmed the killer while others attempted to provide first aid to the wounded.

All in all, for congregation volunteers working to safeguard their flock – as happens in countless churches and synagogues across America every week — it looked like West Freeway Church of Christ had their act very much together when it comes to church safety.

Could they have done better? Sure. Maybe they could have confronted the bad guy dressed inappropriately outside of the sanctuary. They might have even been able to successfully disarm him without incident, relatively speaking.

At the same time, if the West Freeway Church of Christ hadn’t had a safety team, the attack could have rivaled the death toll in the Southerland Springs church massacre that was stopped by good Samaritan neighbor, Stephen Willeford.

Thank God for church safety teams and those who organize and man them.

If your church doesn’t have a safety team yet, you should lobby the leaders to start one.  If they refuse, or heaven forbid your church has signs prohibiting good guys from carrying guns, then this incident should motivate you and your loved ones to find a more proactive place of worship.

comments

  1. avatar jeff says:

    Our church is currently in the training stage for coordinated response if necessary. Hopefully we will never need to act in a case like happened in Texas. Our prayers go out to the families of those lost.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Ours too. In fact, as I write this, I’m texting with the primary leader of our own church’s security team as we discuss more training.

      Something I want to add to the author’s assessment, though. He used ‘five minutes’ as a response time, and I won’t argue with that. He had to choose some amount of time for his argument. But regardless, more time has to be added – perhaps doubled? – because LEOs won’t simply roll up and run inside with guns blazing. They have to assess first (OODA) before knowing the best way to act. Even more important for the congregants to have immediate responders within their midst.

    2. avatar Doug Bridwell says:

      We are there also we have a well oranized team and medical help in the church trained and redy months and about 5 yrs ago plus .we have never drawn our weapons but very close .We have 4 Marines ,1 CApt of Marine ,and an Mp Marine never advertise either very secretfrom out siders who wah to visit .Oberservation phscology peoples faceal quesmy training is from A sepecial School in Colorado and work for 2 X-secret Service and FBI for 26 yrs in there companies .Etc Go threw the local pd for active shooter training and some of your local Police depts offer what is called here Civilian police academy and the Sherriffs dept and the fBI has a civillian Academy also .It will introduce you to your local PD and help them recognize you as a partisapant and tel them if you help before they get ther you atre in thn the Civilan ACADEMY .You may also waht to go to you tube and watch a great neighbor training fire arms Corrin Mosher to sharpen your tatics on defensce .Real good training from a school out of Colorado calledwww.esi-lifeforce.com…….

      1. avatar Hugh Glass says:

        What?

      2. avatar Duh says:

        Do you know how to use ” Spellcheck” or proofread before you submit. That is terrible spelling and grammer. Hard to understand what you are saying.

  2. avatar GeorgiaBob says:

    What really impressed me were the apparently unarmed people who jumped out of their seats and started running – – directly to the two men who had been shot. One woman, very near the shooter, jumps up and starts running, It appeared at first that her run was directly for the door – but even as another shot was fired she used a pew back to swivel herself to the back row where two men lay injured.

    Not all the heroes in that church were carrying handguns.

    1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

      Learning how to administer first aid might not be as much fun as a weekend of tactical training, but you’re not truly prepared for a situation like this with out it. No matter how many extra magazines or tactical kit you carry.

      1. avatar Joe in San Antonio says:

        I would argue 1st aid is even more important. I have had a CHL for 11 years and never have drawn. Been CPR/1st Aid certified and have used it 5 times in life or death situations(car accidents and falls )

      2. avatar tsandl says:

        A very good point. It would be worthwhile for churches, schools, and others to invest in trauma kits and more advanced first aid training. Typical workplace first aid kits lack the necessary supplies to deal with gunshot wounds. I don’t know if it would have helped in this case, but having people on site with the materials and knowledge needed to pack wounds and apply tourniquets would save a lot of lives.

  3. Sure looks like Georgia had the right idea almost 250 years ago:

    “An Act for the better Security of the inhabitants, by obliging the male white persons to carry fire arms to places of worship.”–Laws Of Georgia, No. 191, A.D. 1770.

    1. avatar Dan says:

      Only for the white men though right? Lol.

      1. Dan – “Only for the white men though right? Lol.”

        Unfortunately, and only because of democratic party ‘gun control’. All American [unconstitutional] ‘gun control laws’ have their origins in preventing slaves and freed slaves from keeping or bearing arms. And THAT is a historical fact.

    2. avatar Craig says:

      Except that the leftists in Atlanta have regressed and revoked that right. Can’t carry in church in Ga anymore.

      1. Craig – “Except that the leftists in Atlanta have regressed and revoked that right. Can’t carry in church in Ga anymore.”

        What the traitors don’t know won’t hurt them, right? What’s more important, defending the lives of yourself, family and others. Or obeying unconstitutional dictates that are not valid law to begin with?

        1. avatar Craig says:

          “What the traitors don’t know won’t hurt them, right? ”
          That is true. Until you have to use it to defend you or yours, and then the bastids will try to nail your hide to the wall as a lesson for all the other peasants that think of disobeying their “betters”. At the very least they will make the process the punishment.

          I seem to recall a lady recently that defended herself and family with a handgun and the prosecutor ignored the fact that she was legally defending herself and charged her with carrying without an un-obtainable permit.

        2. Craig – “That is true. Until you have to use it to defend you or yours, and then the bastids will try to nail your hide to the wall as a lesson for all the other peasants that think of disobeying their “betters”. At the very least they will make the process the punishment.

          “I seem to recall a lady recently that defended herself and family with a handgun and the prosecutor ignored the fact that she was legally defending herself and charged her with carrying without an un-obtainable permit.”

          Better to be charged and you and yours are still alive. Rather than to be an obedient sheeple to an unconstitutional dictate and being dead, right?

  4. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    Practice. Practice , Practice
    Dry fire. Costs nothing at home.
    Snap caps. Use them for dry fire. About $16 for six for most handguns.
    Try and get to the range at least once or every other month. All you need is one box of 50 rounds to start with. Here is a guide to start with for free. I use it all the time.

    Ammo Shortage Solutions: One Box Workout™
    https://www.officer.com/tactical/firearm-accessories/article/10882618/ammo-shortage-solutions-one-box-workout

    1. avatar Erik in AZ says:

      You can also practice firing after drawing from concealment with a laser cartridge to improve speed and accuracy. And that saves $ on ammo while allowing you to practice anywhere. Heck, sit on the couch and set up a target down the hall or across the room. You can download one of may free apps that will track the laser hits on the target as well. Total cost, about $30-40 on Amazon.

      1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

        I forgot a Safety tip.
        NEVER dry fire practice with LIVE ammo in the same room. I personally keep my Snap Caps separate from live ammo. Ammo in ammo cans. Snap caps in a chest drawer.

  5. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

    ‘Six seconds.’

    Actually, the three shots occurred in 3 seconds. The only part of the 3 3s that didn’t happen was the final shot looks to be from about 7 yards.

    1. avatar jwtaylor says:

      12 to 15 yard shot, to the head, under pressure.

      1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

        Yep. He was following Elmer Keith’s advice: “Take your time in a hurry.”

        One shot, and the attacker was stopped.

        A whole lot of law enforcement officers would do well to look at that incident for what a competent response looks like. One shot, on target, with effect. That’s the result of practice, practice and more practice.

        1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

          Some may say, “lucky shot”.
          I’ve said many times, “luck is when skill meets opportunity “.

          You are so right. Practice, practice and more practice.

  6. avatar AP says:

    It looks like the first guy who was shot had a hard time finding his pistol, guess that goes to show how important it is to practice drawing your weapon.

    1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      The first responder appeared to have had his CCW rig in the small of his back. This meant that he couldn’t easily draw from a sitting position, and the draw was slow and awkward even when standing. He would have been better off drawing while sitting, as unobtrusively as possible.

      I’ve never understood the appeal of kidney carry. It’s a great way to screw up your back if you fall and land on your CCW rig in the small of your back.

      1. avatar Jeff says:

        Also a very overt draw in that situation.

        Video leaves a lot of perspective out of it, but he was pretty much screwed drawing from that position against a drawn shotgun assuming that is the weapon. Action vs Reaction. Room to move…can’t tell for sure but he may not of had much to work with. Camera angles can play all kinds of tricks on your eyes and depth perception.

        Bad guy doesn’t appear to be very efficient with the shotgun. Thus if he had drawn faster he might of had a chance due to that. That said he didn’t freeze, he tried to engage and ultimately his sacrificial actions gave Wilson time to engage with a well placed shot.

        Remember that Gunfighting Rule “Bring a gun. Preferably, bring at least two guns. Bring all of your friends who have guns. Bring their friends who have guns.”

        Good to remember how fast this went down. Plus they are not a bunch of young, nimble, Seal Team 6 or SWAT that is out at the range all the time practicing draws etc.

        Learn what we can from this, but let’s not drown in the tactical minutia of situations that will always have room for improvement. Ultimately the results matter and lots of lives were likely saved by two older men, wise to evil in the world, but got up that morning and went to church like any other Sunday.

        Let’s remember the good men that stood tall against evil and go easy on the backseat 20/20 hindsight criticism.

        1. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

          I agree. I’d also like to point out that, contrary to “expert” prognostication on what would happen if “untrained” people had guns in churches:

          – there were six or seven parishioners who were armed, and not one of them had any unintended discharge
          – the attacker was dead on the ground in six-seven seconds
          – with only one shot
          – people didn’t lose their heads; there were no mag-dumps, no additional shots fired
          – I saw only one guy get on the phone (presumably to 911) afterwards
          – I didn’t see anyone filming things with a cellular phone camera during or after the fact

          – And I didn’t see anyone in the video wearing a 5.11 tactical clothing, yet they responded well and quickly.

          No one appeared to have taken training from tacti-kewl operators. Imagine that.

        2. avatar MK says:

          Well written!!
          I am a member of our church security team – we have enough for 5 of us per Sunday.
          That said, if a picture is worth a thousand words, a 30 second video is worth 100 pages!
          I’ll be the first to admit our collective training and most of all, any emergency plans are woefully inadequate.
          But rest assured, they will not stay that way.

      2. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        Apparently had it under a (sloppy untucked) shirt, which was itself under a jacket. Add to the fact that he was clearly overweight and a bit big around the midsection where he was carrying his gun. Then top it off with a foolish hand signal of “come over here” and an incredibly slow and easily discernible draw attempt, which gave the perp all the time he needed to defeat him.

        All good intentions, and he deserves a hero’s burial. But lessons for the rest of us, if we’re willing to accept them.

        1. avatar Gov. William J Le Petomane says:

          He and the second victim were the two men standing in close proximity to the shooter, so it’s almost certain he would have been either the first or second one shot since even if they weren’t armed they’d likely tackle him if he started shooting at the seated parishioners. Making any sudden movement at all would likely make him first, not second. In a case like that the first victim has almost no chance, no matter how practiced he is with his draw.

        2. avatar Ing says:

          I wouldn’t call it foolish. That was his job. To shield the congregation from disruption and threats. And that’s exactly what he did.

          The true lesson here is that being ambushed, as this good guy was, really, really sucks.

          It was going to happen to someone, no matter what. At least it happened to someone who had some small chance to get out of it. Without a gun to go for, he would’ve had no chance at all…and yet here we all are, criticizing him for having the very same slim chance we all cling to.

        3. avatar Specialist38 says:

          Yeah. The killer waited for him to draw before he shot. If the guy had drawn faster, seem he would have been shot faster.

          Those two men interacting with him may have been trying to de-escalate the situation. Surely didnt work it did allow the man in the back to draw and fire after the ruckus started.

          He made a great shot but was not not being fired upon directly. If the two men shot had not engaged the killer, it may have gone down differently.

          It is sobering to watch and ponder how it might look in my church.

          I would like to think I would have moved to grapple and draw since he was that close. But church pews dont facilitate forward movement and I have not had a shotgun point at me from three feet.

          Easy to armchair it as I wasnt there when the chute opened. Our next deacon meeting will be interesting. We have a team but not all carry.

          We have done some training but I am going to push for trauma first aid (open to the church) and some informal shooting get togethers.

  7. avatar Red says:

    “Church Security Teams” are for mega-churches. For those who attend much smaller churches, those in the congregation who conceal carry are the “church security team.”

    With that said, megachurches tend to attract the loonies as they are bigger targets and much easier to enter as there are multiple entrances.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Wrong, absolutely wrong. Here in L.A. County, even our small churches have formal security teams, with training and documentation. Mine sure does.

      And you need to define what’s a “small” church and what’s a “mega”, as a specific membership total in one area might be considered something totally different in another area. 5000 people? Perhaps a “mega” in much of CA, but that’s a Sunday School class for a huge church like Lakewood in Texas.

    2. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

      I have to disagree.

      If you’re carrying in a small church, and (for the sake of argument) two other parishioners are also carrying, discussing a security game plan with the other two carriers would be a smart move. Things like:

      – spread out,
      – everyone has assigned entrances/exits to scan,
      – only one member goes to the restroom at a time…

      There are many small points of agreement, which if made in advance, amplify the response of said members, rather than each one acting on their own without co-ordination in the moment.

  8. avatar Steve says:

    Sig 229 357 Sig is what he used

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      Nice handgun + a often unappreciated cartridge with a great track record in the real world. Flat shooting, accurate, high velocity (think 9mm +P+P), high energy. You do your part and it will end things quickly for you. Only downside is ammo cost and it has a heck of a muzzle blast. It’s extremely loud so double up on ear pro if shooting it indoors. Thankfully he only needed to fire one of them off indoors, while the least of his concerns right then I bet his ears were ringing from that and I feel for those in front off to his right.

      1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

        At that range, flat shooting was irrelevant, no matter what the handgun cartridge used.

        Just saying…

  9. avatar Wayne H. Clifton says:

    Several years ago as an elder in my church, I brought up security in the church, having at least two persons at the doors during services. Suggested carrying at that time, training to watch for suspicious activity, scoping out visitors, etc. Was told that God would protect the congregation, etc. I brought up the old saying “God and S$W, and Ruger and Glock, and on and on. I sat apart from my family several weeks, in back of the congrgation, thankfully we had no incidents, I carried then, carry in church now, attended a church where the pastor said he felt secure, because he felt at least 30 were carrying during service.

    1. avatar Tex Patriot says:

      The original law authorizing Texas to have concealed handgun licenses prohibited carrying in places of worship.

      Texas clergy lobbied to fix the law. At Christmas Eve mass outside of Dallas, I doubt that I was the only one with a 9mm concealed from view.

  10. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

    I’m actually a bit surprised only 7 or so drew. I figured a greater percentage would have been armed, in a Texas church.

    (And, maybe they were, but never drew…)

  11. avatar Tex Patriot says:

    The two victims were in their 60’s. Neither had a law enforcement background. Expecting the victim with a gun to do better seems harsh. The retired FBI agent made a hell of a shot for a guy with 70 year old eyes.

    All things considered, the team did a good job and saved lots of lives.

  12. avatar GS650G says:

    Anyone still think carrying with an empty chamber is a good idea?

    1. avatar Jeff says:

      “Anyone still think carrying with an empty chamber is a good idea?”
      Bingo, +1 (pun intended)

      Get a quality handgun and holster(s) that you are comfortable carrying it in. Train, practice, repeat. Work on your weaknesses and know your limitations. If you get a chance to practice on a simulator, take it. Real life is not John Wick or quick drawing against a “beep” that you know is coming and no one is pointing a shotgun at you.

      “hell of a shot for a guy with 70 year old eyes.”
      Yeah the fact that these guys are seniors – with neither the eyes or reflexes of a 20-30-somethings – tends to be forgotten about by some of the armchair critics.

      Room for improvement in places? Yes. Lessons that can be learned here? Yes. Still a heck of a lot went about as good as it’s going to get considering how this went down.

  13. avatar DCChristian says:

    In my similarly-sized church in Oklahoma, my similarly-sized security team will be reviewing the Texas incident, to improve our response in the future. Also, there’s nothing unscriptural about using your God-given skills and tools to protect the people you care about. I’m praying that other congregations use this incident to improve their security. I also challenge the readers of this site to find a good church. Worship. Get closer to God. Make new friends. And help out- with security, or wherever you can.

  14. avatar George Rasmussen says:

    We’re full time a small mountain top community with a small congregation, in particular through the winter. Summers are a different story with our community hosting a huge influx of visitors escaping the heat for time in the high country.

    As a former police officer I’ve often wondered what we’d do as a church if a bad guy with a gun, intent on killing and maiming, burst in and started shooting. What I’d do as an armed individual if that happened would be to call on my training, take in the situation and act as quickly and efficiently as possible to neutralize the threat. Now I’ll make sure I join with others of like mind and abilities to see to it our church has a Safety Team in place with a flexible plan that provides an elevated level of watchful proactive security we need these days.

    This church shooting incident in Texas, and the level of response those brave congregants provided in taking out the threat in the face of massive bodily harm, provides much to think about as we plan for possible events of a similar nature.

  15. avatar Will Drider says:

    CORRECTION TO YOUR ARTICLE: BG fired a third shotgun blast! We only hear three distinct shots which sound the same. Shotgun sounds different from a pistol firing a 357Sig but we know that shot was fired. If you look at the video and focus on the shotgun at the third shot: you will clearly see muzzle flash against the wall background which matches muzzle blast from BGs first two shots. Now watch Jack Wilson’s muzzle at his shot: no muzzle flash there so its not from his gun being reflected on the wall near the BG.

    What we have is actually four shots with Wilson’s only shot being simultaneous (+-) with BGs “third” shot. The BGs third shot may have been intentional activation of the trigger initiated before he was hit but locktime delayed, this allowed Wilson’s shot to actually fire and hit BG as shotgun also discharged. It could also be Wilson’s hit caused instant involuntary muscle contraction causing the shotguns third discharge with overlaping report, louder shotgun report and/or Church acoustics. Anyway you dissect it, there’s FOUR Shots.

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