guns in church texas law concealed carry
The memorial for the victims of a shooting at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
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By Deepah Bharath and Luis Andres Henao, AP

The Rev. Steven Marsh never thought he would see the day his church in Laguna Woods, California — a town of 16,500 populated largely by retirees — would be spending $20,000 a month for security.

Then a gunman opened fire on May 15 during a luncheon at Geneva Presbyterian Church, where Marsh is senior pastor, killing one and injuring five other members of a Taiwanese congregation that met there. Officials said the man, who was motivated by political hatred against Taiwan, chained the church’s doors shut and hid firebombs inside before shooting at the gathering of elderly church members.

Houses of worship are meant to be places of shelter, reflection and peace, where strangers are welcome. But the recent string of high-profile mass shootings in the U.S. is a reminder violence can happen anywhere, prompting some faith leaders to ramp up security.

At Geneva Presbyterian, armed security guards now stand watch every weekday and during Sunday services. The church also is adding more security cameras, developing an active shooter plan and applying for Department of Homeland Security funding.

“We’re not trying to militarize the church,” Marsh said. “We prayed about it and made a decision to have armed security as an act of faith.”

Without the new security measures, Marsh predicted that a mass exodus by the congregation and the schools on the church’s campus would have followed the shooting.

Creating a space that is both safe and welcoming is possible, said Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, the former spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas.

In January, he and three others were taken hostage by a pistol-wielding man during a Shabbat service. Cytron-Walker threw a chair at the gunman — a courageous act that helped them safely escape — after a nearly 11-hour standoff. He credits the several rounds of active shooter training he has taken.

“When you are unable to run away or find a hiding place, you need to find a way to act and to fight back,” Cytron-Walker said. “When we were most afraid he was going to kill us, I saw a moment I had been looking for all day long.”

Cytron-Walker now leads Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. As he works on a security plan with his new congregation, he is being mindful of how a welcoming synagogue can enhance safety “because someone who wants to do harm can see that they are not going to be able to walk in anonymous.”

Historically, sanctuaries have been vulnerable to violent attacks — from bombings at black churches during the civil rights era to more recent shootings in the U.S. at mosques and Sikh gurdwaras. In the U.S., FBI hate crime statistics show that incidents in churches, synagogues, temples and mosques increased 34.8% between 2014 and 2018.

“All faiths are under attack in America by radicals and extremists,” said Alon Stivi, a security consultant for synagogues, Jewish community centers and day schools. Some congregants are reticent to show up.

tree of life synagogue shooting
Tree of Life synagogue, Pittsburgh (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

“They’re asking a lot more questions: ‘Should I come to the weekly services or just come for the holidays? And if I come, should I bring my kids?’”

Religious leaders who once preferred to leave security in the hands of the divine are taking precautions that seemed unthinkable years prior, Stivi said. More congregants are carrying concealed handguns to services, too, he said.

From $25 million in 2016 to $180 million last year, the federal government has steadily increased the amount of funding it sets aside to help the faith community with security costs, Stivi said. But not all faith leaders are aware they can apply for it, he said.

Past attacks on houses of worship and other public spaces have prompted faith leaders to evaluate — sometimes for the first time — if there is more that can be done to keep their flocks safe.

FILE – Police tape surrounds the parking lot behind the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. on June 19, 2015, as FBI forensic experts work at the crime scene of the shooting of nine members of the black congregation. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Today an armed police officer watches over Sunday services at Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, said the Rev. Kylon Middleton, who leads the congregation. When an officer is unable to be on campus for church events, members carrying concealed weapons keep watch.

“It is sad, but we are in such times where we must have armed security to protect our people,” he said.

The church is two blocks away from Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 2015, a self-proclaimed white supremacist opened fire during Bible study and killed nine worshippers, including the senior pastor. Middleton said the late pastor was like a brother to him.

In the wake of the massacre, security discussions at Mt. Zion factor worship style into the equation, including the need for some to always keep their eyes open, especially when most have theirs closed in prayer, Middleton said.

“No one ever thought mass shootings would happen in churches, which are sacred sanctuaries where you can escape the world and seek spiritual refuge,” he said. “When that space has been violated, it creates a restlessness of spirit.”

After the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Rabbi Jon Leener met with local New York police to discuss safety for Base BKLYN, his home-based ministry that has welcomed thousands.

For years, he and his wife, Faith, would unlock their front door right before Shabbat dinners, believing in a Judaism where no door is shut or locked. That changed after Tree of Life — the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history. Leener also installed a security camera and a buzz-in system for visitors. He hired an armed guard after this year’s hostage situation in Texas.

“It’s terribly unfortunate that we live in an age when we need to compromise our value of openness for the threat of violence, but that is just the reality at the moment,” Leener said.

church security
Church security screening visitors to St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

It is a balancing act for many. Marsh said the shooting in his church happened because members of the Taiwanese congregation were welcoming to the shooter — a person they didn’t know.

“The church needs to be welcoming to all people, and we cannot lose that,” he said.

“Are there ways an active shooter could get on our campus again? Yes. But we have to be willing to have this happen again. Otherwise, we would all have to go through metal detectors. It would no longer be a church.”

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80 COMMENTS

    • They have to be proactive. You folks that worship .gov and kill babies are not going to let up on the violence.

      You may not be physically involved in the terrorism, I doubt you have the courage for that. But you are an instigator and an enabler.

        • “Lord” means “Ba’al”.
          I suggest you crack open a concordance next time you read your bible.

        • ok.
          “…particularly associated with the storm and fertility god Hadad…”
          so?
          he was deemed false, and much later corrupted into beelzebub.

      • minor49IQ aka Mr. Spock…Those who fail to provide security can always blame guns, the police, etc. They’ll blame anything and everyone but themselves and the perp…that’s exactly what dirty diaper democRats always do.

        • Are you in dire need of a career change? Isn’t it frustrating to have to create budgets for everything in life? What if I told that up to $500 can be earned daily without stepping outside of your home,y6 would you be interested? In fact, soft skills supposedly suffice to make… http://Www.BizPay1.com

    • Yes, the Bible teaches everyone to always lay down for slaughter. Especially in church.

      Friendly advice: Because you have the intellect of a single-digit-aged person, it’s OK to not comment as much as you do.

      • There is no Scriptural mandate for Christians to not defend themselves; and conversely, there IS Scriptural mandates to protect one’s family and even one’s nation. Jesus sent the disciples out the second time and told them to take a sword. I’m sure it wasn’t for slicing watermelons.

        • Yup. The AR-15 (or at the very least, a Glock) is a modern-day sword. Moreover, if you had a comparative religion course in college, one would know that radical pacifism originates in Buddhism and Hinduism and is not Christian doctrine. If any evangelist, pastor or elder teaches pacifism, that individual is a heretic and false prophet.

          While the Bible teaches us to love our enemies and pray for them, the Bible also provides an abundance of examples where God’s people were expected to go to war, and in several instances God commanded His people to annihilate enemy nations down to the last man, woman, child/infant, and even livestock.

          Psalm 82:3-4, Psalm 144:1, Luke 22:36, 1Tim. 5:8.

          God himself by his own hand “nuked” cities like Sodom & Gomorrah so completely that there’s no evidence that these places ever existed, not even with modern science can we even begin to guess where they were.

    • God approves Miner49. Don’t you worry about it.

      Why is it so fascinating to you that a person or group or even a church would want the means to defend?

    • Miner, I invite you to read chapter 4 of Nehemiah. It’s short, but pertinent. The workers building the wall were challenged and threatened by those around them, so they equipped themselves with swords as they worked, while some of them stood by with spears to provide additional security.

      In similar fashion, Jesus himself instructed his disciples to sell what they didn’t need and “buy a sword” for their own protection as they traveled.

      Or does a group of families seeking to protect itself from attack bother you?

    • “Are you sure your sky daddies will approve of this?”

      My Creator likely approves of the fact that I, as well as several others are carrying every time we attend church. Probably more than He approves of your mocking Him…

      Seriously, in our church’s case, very few know (or care) that several members are carrying. What would be the big deal? Carrying a firearm, yet not displaying or producing it is not much different than having a brain(?), being able to imagine all forms of mayhem (or blasphemy) yet not ever carrying out any of those actions

      Of course, cretins like Minor would likely label me a rapist because I have a penis…

    • What I find fascinating is how atheists like you, who pretend to be accepting of all others, are always showing your true nature of hate-filled bigotry. It’s also fascinating (and very telling) how your particular brand of bigotry isn’t just accepted among your loving and inclusive brethren, it’s lauded.

      • Their prophet is M@rx who will lead then into a blood soaked utopia.

        Their belief is an apocalypse cult.

        • You should use Marx’s real name…
          Moses Mordechai Levi.
          Everything “communist” is JEWISH.

        • letmepicyou Horse pucky! Where did you come up with that anti-Semitic nonsense?

        • WEB, he’s probably an 88er. Faps off to his pictures of AH. I’ve just invoked Godwin’s law.

      • But first, would he force you to sit through the gayest MCU production to date? It wasn’t terrible outside of the agenda being pushed.

    • MINOR Miner49er. Yes, but we don’t use derogatory names to describe our Creator. You will one day regret your use of such a remark when you day comes to meet Him.

    • Jesus said in Luke 22:36, “But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.” The AR-15 rifle and/or modern semi-auto pistol is a modern-day sword. Also Psalm 82:3,4 says “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy. Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.” And Psalm 144:1 says; “Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight”.

      Not that I’d expect a godless communist to know squat about the Word of God; right, comrade??

  1. Evil, Violence, and Mayhem have always existed, always will until Christ returns and finally puts them in their place eternally. Until then, you are on your own, but for Misters Smith, Wesson, Colt and Glock having your 90s.

  2. “We’re not trying to mititarize the church.” No, but there is nothing wrong with smart security. There is a segment of a global religion that believes murder is justified to further it. The Vatican has had the Swiss Guard for how long? I once saw video of a Rabbi firing an Uzi to repel an attack on an Israeli grade school. A little more of this is part of the answer.

    • Not protecting your own is not biblical concept. But those who want to vandalize and threaten churches need to think twice….at least in the South. In addition to paid security, probably 20 percent of the congregation (men and women) are armed….everywhere they go, including church. Many churches also now have congregants who are armed and have been trained to handle violent intruders. In the lawless society we are living in, being unprepared for enemies of the church is ridiculous.

  3. Cameras are just there so the cops can watch you being murdered in real time. Decades ago in Stockton a synagogue was heavily vandalized with fascist symbols. Threats were made. The security company I work for at the time got the call and the next service there were large, ugly and armed men around the building. Me and my fellows. It was a peaceful day. Guns protect you. Alarms and cameras just announce your death.

    I claim no faith. I do not attend church except for weddings and funerals. But I believe that the right to peaceably assemble is paramount to a free society.

    • Plenty of security at the large Hammond, Indiana Baptist church I attend- by armed members,the security team & a few uniformed cops. It ain’t a great neighborhood either. I’m sorry these Presbyterian’s have these troubles…

      • “I’m sorry these Presbyterian’s have these troubles…”

        Having once been one of those at one time, I can attest than they, themselves, and their ever-woke positions, bring on many of their own problems…

        • Well I wasn’t going to comment on them mostly being heretics & apostates…but $20000 a month?!?

        • “but $20000 a month?!?”

          That raised my eyebrows a few hundred meters, that’s for sure.

          If I lived out there, I’d do it for 10K a month, and still make a fat profit after hiring a crew…

  4. My brothers church just asked who in the congregation carries, and would they be willing to act as security for church services and functions. Those who were willing were given shirts that identify them to congregants but not to anyone unfamiliar with the church, and also given ear piece communication devices that are unobtrusive. As each person provides their own gun and ammo, and they all chipped in for their own shirts and communication devices, it cost the church nothing.

    • IMO-in churches, schools, and most other places where people gather would be better served if no one knew who the armed people were. Labeling one as “Security” makes an easy first victim, allowing many, many more to follow.

      • “…in churches, schools, and most other places where people gather would be better served if no one knew who the armed people were.”

        That’s kind of *impossible* in my church’s case. With a total congregation in the mid 2-digits, everyone literally knows everyone else who is there. That also means when visitors do turn up, its rather obvious. Our security is kinda ad-hoc, but it fits our size for now. If it expands, we’ll take that under consideration at the time. Our pastor has indicated he has no problem with how things are for now with our security team of 3, men and women.

        (I found it *highly* amusing when my little mentally-ill demented personal troll thought he was being clever when he said I probably hid in a corner at church, when a rear corner was my self-assigned position. Kinda hard to sneak up behind someone in a corner… 🙂 )

    • God did not give mankind brains just for fun. There is nothing wrong with churches doing as The Crimson Pirate described with the church leaders and congregants using their brains to their advantage without compromising God’s teachings. God gave us brains to use without limitations. You use your brains to do everything else including making decisions relative to church attendance, then why would you not use them for reasons of security?

    • Yep…congregant security has become a norm in churches I’m familiar with. They are given training on handling a number of potential emergencies, from fires to shooters. It’s handled as just another service ministry by the body of believers at each church facility….volunteers are vetted, but they are still just volunteers. Most churches do have at least one armed paid security during services, as well as surveillance cameras when the church is empty.

  5. While I find any attack on any place of worship inexcusable, there is a certain amount of irony involved. At various points in history, many of the current religions attacked and destroyed the places of worship of those they wished to convert, conquer, or control.
    I see no person issue with any place of worship doing what it can to protect those who congregate within. And would advise those who are going to ignore such possibilities to remember the old Quaker saying. “Trust in the Lord. But keep your powder dry.”

    • Senator John Kennedy (R-LA), “I believe that love is the answer, but you ought to own a handgun just in case.”

  6. For the past 17 years I have personally served in an armed capacity on a church security team. If you attend a place of worship that does not have an armed security team I would encourage you to reach out to leadership to choose suitably equipped individuals to provide this service I’m sure you’ll find folks that attend that have the right skill set.

    • I myself am a Team leader. We have a mix of armed & unarmed, medical & security, sworn LE and non-sworn. Each has his own skills to bring to the team as we protect our church.

      • My church’s team is currently made up of listed church leaders, but we would have no problem if others wanted to join. All current congregants are aware of who carries…

  7. As a kid growing up in the North Bronx, my dad an NYPD cop was the head usher in our church. All the other ushers he recruited were NYPD. As an altar boy I got the opportunity to serve mass in the most heavily armed church in the NY Archdiocese.

  8. An easy, safe life here was never promised. It’s surprising how many Christians fail to understand that. We live in a chaotic, fallen world. Shit happens. Deal with it.

    • “It’s surprising how many Christians fail to understand that.”

      For the record: There are Christians, and also those who belong to sometimes-once, Christian-based denominations and sects. There is, literally, a Hell of a difference.

      Pun intended, and not…

    • Faith promises a safe landing, NOT a smooth voyage.

      This has been a topic of discussion numerous times for me. No shortage of “why do bad things happen” people in the world.

  9. HAVE RIGHT GO TO CHURCH JUST LIKE GOING TO SCHOOL AND SHOULD NOT BE SHOT FOR DOING IT . CRAZY SHOOTERS RUIN IT FOR ALL OF US … ARM YOURSELF , LTC , NEED BETTER SECURITY ALL AROUND ..
    UUUUH HUMANS , WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HUMAN …
    WELL THERE GOES PLANET EARTH … POOR MOTHER NATURE ,
    TRUE , SHE CAN LIVE WITH OUT HUMANS …

    • “I dont think I’d wanna die in a church.”

      I don’t know…

      Possum, one of our congregants mentioned at fellowship following a service a few years back that she was terminally-ill, and didn’t want to be resuscitated if she collapsed at church.

      I mentioned that hearing was supposed to be one of the last senses to go, and if she had a favorite hymn our organist could play for her as she passed. She requested ‘Nearer my God to Thee’.

      A few months later she passed at home in her sleep…

  10. What’s wrong with militarizing your church? There’s nothing in the Bible that says you must let yourself be murdered in a church. Christians, Muslims, Jews, every faith, every single one should militarize. The radical left seeks to exterminate religion across the face of the earth.

    And I’m not even religious. But I do know history. And I know that when leftist atheists are in charge literally 100s of millions of people die.

  11. quote————The church is two blocks away from Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 2015, a self-proclaimed white supremacist opened fire during Bible study and killed nine worshippers, including the senior pastor. Middleton said the late pastor was like a brother to him.————–quote

    The FBI has stated the most dangerous threat to America is from White Supremacists. The attack on the Capital on Jan 6th showed how close we came to a one party Trump dictatorship as the Proud Boys, a radical white right wing Supremacist group, organized it all after close conversations with Herr Drumpf’s gang of Jackbooted Nazi thugs. The Jan 6th hearings are horrifying the Nation with the amount of information now being revealed.

    The U.S. is turning into an armed camp and we are very close to what happened in Germany after WWI when Jacbooted thug right wing Nazi’s murdered Liberals in the streets of Germany to pave the way for the rise of Hitler. This time it will be the rise of either Herr Drumpf or R. De-Insane-us who will destroy the U.S. Government and create a dictatorship for life.

    The cost of 24 hour around the clock protection for such places as schools and churches is just too expensive for most of them and they are vulnerable from right wing white supremacist maniacs armed to the teeth with high capacity assault rifles.

    History repeats itself with the rise of modern day right wing Nazi thugs like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other far right nut case groups.

    • The FBI is also law enforcement and therefore racist white supremacist and therefore is also the greatest threat to the country.

    • “The FBI has stated the most dangerous threat to America is from White Supremacists.”

      That same FBI claimed validity of the “Russian Dossier” that Hillary paid for, found absolutely phony evidence of Trump/Russian “collusion”, finds nothing illegal concerning the “wandering” of Hunter Biden even though the NYT now admits the evidence alone on his abandoned laptop is real, on and on.

      I support Truth. The modern FBI leadership only supports the Left and their anti-American ideology

    • You failed to me to mention Antifa, BLM, and other leftist groups who are far more likely to attack, loot, kill, and destroy than Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, etc. It’s easy to make accusations, but the past behavior of both groups verifies that the former is far more lawless than the latter. Your problem with the latter is not that they threaten harm but that they don’t share your values.

  12. If you come here planning to shoot up our church or its school, you will die before you get all the way through the door and before you can touch the trigger.

  13. AS long as there are so many firearms in circulation and so readily available it is impossible to give more than a token protection against a determined mad bugger with a whole range of weaponry. I these dselusional fools want to pray-as if that’s going to have any effect at all so be it. Esppecially as the real solution is staring them in the face and that’s to reduce the number of firearms in the hands of mad buggers wannabe Rambos by 95% and seriously tighten up mgun control legislation
    In all the history of mankind praying has has exactly zilch effect except to make those doing the praying feel that that are doing something. If they are prepared to spend $US20,000 per month that’s entirely up to them One thing is for absolute sure and that’s if the Poilce provided the same level of security it would be muliples of $US20K a month.
    When is the USA going to face up to reality and and put the 20,000 plus victims of gun crime and the 27.000 suicides by shooting seriously and take another look at the American Constitution. ?
    When is the supposedly independent judiciary of the USA and Members of both the Senate and Congress going to face up to their responsibilities instead on far too many of them being in the pockets of the manufacturers and purveyors of the instruments of death?

      • Except Booger Brain the Brits have not had a school mass shooting in decades after they clamped down on guns. This is something you cannot lie your way out of or give it the usual hairbrained fare right rant and spin.

        Last year at the London Bridge the terrorists could not even buy shotguns so they went into a bar and tried to kill the patrons with knives and they got the shit beat out of them. In Capitalvania where life is considered cheap and expendable they would have bought second hand assault rifles and killed everyone in the bar in seconds. Again something that you cannot lie your way out of.

        • dacian, the Dunderhead. they don’t need “school mass shootings”, while they have mass stabbings right in London.
          I have made it very clear. If you don’t like the US, we will be glad to set up a Go-Fund-Me page for you for your moving expense to the country of your choice. One proviso. You May NOT under any condition return to the USA

    • So I suppose you’d have only the racist sexist extreme right wing police as the only ones with guns? I see you too are racist then.

      • Did someone drop you on your head when you were a baby?
        We don’t have any “racist sexist extreme right wing police”. Get a frickin’ life!

    • When is the USA going to face up to reality and and put the 20,000 plus victims of gun crime and the 27.000 suicides by shooting seriously and take another look at the American Constitution?

      When Jesus returns! Because the U.S Constitution is the greatest document written by men. The Bible was written by God. And it’s why the U.S. is the greatest country that has ever existed. Serf Albert L J Hall. Is that like a title in Great Britain?

      • Texican, We take reality very seriously. Do you? Do you realize that most people who are killed by a violent person do not possess that firearm LEGALLY?
        If a person is determined to take their own life, not having a firearm is not going to deter them?

        • Only a nut case like Walter the Beverly Hillbilly would claim that America should become an armed camp with everyone armed to the teeth. Of course since he has never lived in a civilized country and he has no idea that this is NOT how people should live or want to live. Only a demented paranoid would consider such a way of living normal.

        • dacian the Dunderhead You do like to embellish. I did not say anything like or about “America should become an armed camp” Speaking of civilization, in your version of civilization, do all the people like to lie as you do? Since when is “paranoia” to want to have the means to defend one’s self? I guess in your civilized world, there are no criminals?
          You are either a s blithering idiot or a fool.

    • What about Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Finland where there are high rates of firearm ownership and not much in restrictions in what you can own?

      You don’t hear much about incidents with firearms in those countries.

      Your simplistic view of too many guns equals too much crime has been refuted in many places. Perhaps it is a cultural thing?

      • The idea of more guns = more crimes is false. All gun owners don’t do the same things with guns as do bad people. Thus, to equate increased crime with increased gun ownership is just pure foolishness. A car can go further on 20 gallons of gas than it can on 15, but adding guns to a collection or an increase in the number of gun owners does not compute the same. Responsible citizens aren’t going to commit crimes no matter how many guns they own and criminals aren’t going to commit less crimes by hindering or taking guns from responsible citizens. More guns simply does not equate to an increase in crimes. Just like more prophylactics doesn’t equate to more sex.

    • “When is the supposedly independent judiciary of the USA and Members of both the Senate and Congress going to face up to their responsibilities…?”

      Damn good question from the blathering Brit- yes! When?

      They’ve sworn an oath to protect and uphold the Constitution, of which the Second Amendment is a vital part.

      Al- it’s great to actually agree with you for once…

    • Pip, pip, cheerio and all that rot! Wot are ya on about guvn’r? Fancy a bit a bubble and squeak do we ducky? Sorry about the late unpleasantness back in 1776…now kneel for your masters in the sharia controlled estates, I hear the like their dancing boys on the “pale” side…

  14. One of the many reasons I do not attend the church we joined 10+ yrs ago. I routinely pointed out security issues to the church council who did nothing. When they could not keep a secretary/admin due to their open door policy and a growing street people problem, they locked the doors and put in electric strikes and Aiphones. THen come Sunday mornings, all the doors unlocked and no monitoring or security. They’ve had multiple thefts of electronics and food. They run a lunch/food bag program during the week. They have had 2 dumpster fires that were set intenionally. Numerous break ins by overnight “guests”. I’d be there every Sunday strapped under a suit coat but they wont hear it.

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