On a continuum of security, there are thousands of opinions as to appropriate church security measures. We have encountered numerous opinions from, “We will depend on God for our security.” to “We believe God has equipped us to protect our church from bad people.” and everything in between.
Within the last few years, we have been contacted by thousands of churches seeking information regarding appropriate security measures for their church, and a few have revealed some steps they have taken that some may consider controversial.
While the thought of an armed person in church may be offensive to some who attend church, armed security teams (civilian CCW and off-duty police) have become more normalized with the advent of numerous states passing a form of carrying concealed weapons laws.
Several armed, violent offenses happening in local churches have caused church security planners to examine whether allowing specific team members to carry firearms in church makes sense.
Given the fact that local police departments’ response times are often several minutes long, and an armed, trained person on the church campus may have an opportunity to save many innocent lives by stopping an armed, violent aggressor, many church leaders have chosen to quietly allow CCW on the church premises (depending upon state law).
Additionally, many who have acquired CCW permits and are personal safety minded, and not acting as part of a church security team, carry their firearms to church as well, and are not under the auspices of their local church security team.
Most would agree the training required of someone who accepts this responsibility should be more than acquiring a CCW permit in a weekend class. Quality firearms training facilities have been opened for business and teach tactical/combat shooting skills that markedly improve the abilities of those who attend. Continued practice is required to maintain proficiency. Most of the time, those who are thinking about CCW assume the pistol as the weapon of choice.
However, CSA has been in contact with churches who have not only opted to allow CCW permit holders to carry, but also have a rifle secured on the church premises. Obviously, our goal in church security is to to make it appear there is no security at all, so the churches opting to employ an AR-15 are not going to walk around with the rifle slung around their shoulders. I think most people would like to think church isn’t a place where security is needed.
Those who have chosen this option are few, but are people who have taken past incidents into account (Beslan, Norway, Columbine) and have determined they want a tactical advantage gained by a long gun.
The weapon is secured and easily accessible to trained members if the church should come under attack by an armed aggressor, and there is adequate time to obtain the weapon. Of course, the knowledge of the fact a rifle is on campus is limited to those who need to know, and hopefully storage is hidden and inconspicuous.
While some may be horrified by this thought due to their political leanings, consider the tactical advantages:
- The weapon may be stored in a locker at an elevated height.
- The AR-15 allows precision shooting from a distance.
- Ammunition is available that prevents over-penetration limiting the chance of innocent people being shot.
- High capacity magazines are available.
- 5.56 and .223 round ability to shoot through body armor.
- Stopping power.
Is this an option every church should consider? Probably not. However, the issue with security (and having a rifle available) is that it is like an insurance policy. One is happy when it is present and available in case you need it, but the hope is you will never need to use it. In the United States, churches can assess for themselves whether this is a good option for their church without governmental intrusion or policy dictating what they should do for self protection.
I must be honest, I was slightly taken back by the thought of having an AR-15 on church property. When I honestly assessed the thinking behind this, I found it was due more to cultural conditioning then to tactical considerations. This is the obstacle you will probably face if brought before a church leadership team.
Once I took time to think through the issue for a while, I concluded there wasn’t much difference between having a gun on my hip vs. having a gun secured in a locker, other than immediate availability and the size of the gun available.
In tactical planning, it is wise to assess as many contingencies as possible and determine whether you have the ability to answer a threat. Given recent high profile mass casualty incidents, and radical extremist “lone wolf” threats it is important churches determine the best course of action for their church alone, and to suspend judgment of those who choose a course different from yours.
Please be advised this is not something CSA is advocating or recommending. We realize this concept is highly controversial, and may raise some eyebrows. We simply wanted to let you know that it is out there and being practiced by some churches.
Here is a short video…