Fear is a natural human emotion, but can lead us to a path of disaster if we let it. Remember Y2K? People everywhere, many of them Christians, were freaking out that the world was going to end. It didn’t!
Fear grips the heart, makes us irrational, and sends us searching for solutions to our perceived problems. Fear also makes problems appear larger than they are, and aids in making the wrong decisions.
In Knoxville, Tennessee, a church shooting gained national headlines. Experts made predictions, news anchors spoke in rushed voices, and facts about the case were speculated upon. The normal, everyday, 24 hour news cycle we have become accustomed to and expect sowed fear in our hearts. After all, another church shooting has happened and a raving lunatic killed people-church going people like us.
It leaves us feeling empty, and, well, afraid.
I wondered how many people carried guns to church today out of fear. It feels funny even typing that-carried guns to church.
The first thing we all need to do is to take a deep breath in, relax a minute, and then breath out.
When a child is abducted, there is usually an expert being interviewed that makes this statement, “Child abduction is so rare that it probably won’t happen to your family.” It is an attempt to make everyone feel better, but it really doesn’t help much because now we believe it could happen to us.
It certainly doesn’t feel good to the family of the missing child because it did happen to them. The rest of the parents throughout the country scramble to teach their children about safety, but as time goes on, and the fear subsides, we go back to our normal lives.
I write this to say this…the chance of a gunman walking into your church in the United States and shooting people is very slim. Could it happen? Yes. Is it likely? No. So what should our response be?
What should our church do to protect itself? Should we have some of our members carry guns or other weapons?
My answer: No.
Let me qualify my answer.
The issue of carrying weapons is so big, and there are many moral, legal, and liability issues your church should consider way before the thought of arming a security team should be considered.
Really, do you want someone carrying a weapon in your church that hasn’t repeatedly trained with the weapon?
I am not talking about going to the range and plinking targets, that is not training. It is target practice. My experience has been that many people who “know how to shoot” don’t really know how to shoot.
When the target begins shooting back, the person responsible for carrying a firearm needs to know tactics, needs to know how to shoot accurately, and needs to understand the trauma they will face when they have to shoot another human being.
Standing on a gun range and asking someone who has had a gun for 25 years and he tells you that he “knows how to shoot” should not look at you with a confused looked on his face when you ask him to ready his weapon for firing. Yet, this happens all the time. As a trainer, it has happened to me.
Is this everybody? Absolutely not. There are many, many, many civilian CCW holders that take firearms training very seriously, even more seriously than many police officers. They are combat ready and know how to proficiently use their weapon. CCW training does not qualify someone to be a combat shooter, it is a starting place for self protection.
Consider this…a police officer’s accuracy rate in a combat situation is about 25%! These are men and women who depend on their skills to save lives, often their own. They supposedly practice often, and have to qualify a few times a year, and even they do not hit their targets as often as they should.
Allowing someone to carry a firearm or any other weapons system on church premises should require the church to examine the person’s qualifications, certification level, practice time, tactical training, and understanding of defensive force. The person should also understand the traumatic results that can occur from having to take a life, or misusing the weapon.
The misapplication of force can be devastating for everyone involved and should never be taken lightly.
I have also been asked whether a church should issue weapons to the security team.
Issuing weapons to a security team is not advisable. If this is done, it should be documented, planned for, practiced, and trained by a certified trainer. Many states do not regulate church security teams, but this issue will be visited by the court if and when force is applied.
The bottom line is a security team is not a private police force. They do not have the lawful duty to act, and in many states, the ability to detain anyone. If force is used, any prosecutor would examine the case in light of whether the application of force was reasonable, the totality of the circumstances, and whether your actions were defensive in nature.
In essence, like a police officer, your actions would be judged by a group of people who were not there.
If attempting to increase church security, after determining the skill level and qualification of the team member, weapons should only be carried by a small number of individuals, should have church approval, and the church should make the local law enforcement agency aware of your security plans.
The best place to start for every church is in the planning. Who should do what? What areas are you vulnerable? Have you documented what you plan to do? Is there anyone in your church membership who has the requisite skill level to assist?
The bottom line is allowing weapons in church is a serious decision and should not be taken lightly. Many states allow citizens to carry weapons concealed after taking a course, however, this is not enough to make them a good candidate for carrying a weapon in a church security setting.
Remember, breath in, relax and breath out. Plan for church security, assess the threats, and document the safety plans first before leaping to any decisions about weapons. Make sure you are following all state laws, train like your life depends on it, and hope it never happens.