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.