Every church should have one or more good guys with guns protecting the flock. Every synagogue. Every temple. Every mosque. Anywhere people gather to worship should have a planned and trained 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.
I’ve always carried discretely in church, even at my own wedding. I have no doubt my [now-former] pastor in Pontiac, Illinois knew I carried. But even as I did what I had to do to keep myself and my family safe, I knew that in and of themselves guns don’t necessarily make churches safer.
Church safety depends on security staff mastering a wide variety of non-firearms-related skills.
First, but not least, members of church security need to develop situational awareness. They need to know what’s normal and what isn’t. How to recognize suspicious behavior, from both regular members and from new or occasional visitors.
They need de-escalation skills to verbally resolve conflicts which could escalate into violence. They need to know how to guide someone into a safe(r) space without going hands-on.
And when it’s time to get physical, they need empty-handed skills to be able to control an uncooperative individual. They also need more aggressive combative skills to counter a threat without resorting to their gun. Or, in dire situations, to get to their gun.
I’ve come to know one expert on church security training, Tom Whitaker of Metro Krav Maga in Collinsville, Illinois. Tom’s a black belt in Krav Maga and has trained at Israel’s Wingate Institute. Having spent his younger years working security in bars, he picked up a lot of knowledge from the school of hard knocks.
After his Maryville, Illinois church saw its pastor killed by a lunatic armed with a .45 during a service, Tom set up a security team and began sharing his strategies and experience with other religious organizations
Tom stresses what I’ve outlined above: the vast majority of problems security encounters at a church or other place of worship don’t require a ballistic solution if handled properly and discretely. A gun should be any parishioner’s last, unavoidable option.
All that said, I’ll take an armed innocent without training who’s willing to take action against a lethal threat over an unarmed victim waiting for help any day. But if you want to be a more effective guardian of your religious community know this: the best weapon is only as good as the person who uses it.
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