Church safety and security should be at the forefront of every CCW holder. The number of active shooters has risen in recent years, and while there was a time when church seemed relatively safe, that’s no longer the case today.
How Common Are Church Shootings?
Active shooter trends are on the rise. Texas’ First Baptist Sutherland Springs church was the deadliest in recent memory. The event occurred in 2017 and led to 26 members of the church being killed.
Georgia is the only state in the country with three shootings in churches aside from Texas.
Between 1999 and 2017, a total of 91 people were killed in church-related shootings. That is 91 people too many.
Since then, there have been numerous shootings at churches and religious centers:
- October 2018 a man entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 people and injuring 7.
- January 2019 a man killed a total of five people, including his parents, in the Ascension and Livingston Parish.
- April 2019 a person killed one and injured three people at California’s Poway synagogue.
- April 2019 a person shot and killed one churchgoer and injured another.
- December 2019 a shooter in Texas killed two and injured one member in White Settlement.
And these are just some of the incidents that have occurred in recent years. There are a lot of incidents that are not on the list, too.
While “common” is hard to define, there seems to be several church shootings each year, with some being mass shootings and others involving far less victims.
Churches are also not singled out in these cases. Shootings have occurred in other religious centers, too. There have been shootings at temples, religious schools and even at monasteries.
If you go back to before 1963, there were no shootings involving four or more people in a church on record.
The lack of security, and the societal issues leading to shootings, have led to a rise in shootings. Church safety is still not taken seriously, with more churches allotting money to their choir than to their safety policies.
Pastors often assume that the odds of a shooting are low, so they have no real reason to invest money into their security measures. The good news is that there is a good chance you won’t experience a church shooting.
While violence and shootings may be on the rise, they’re infrequent enough that there’s little risk they’ll happen at your church. But this is the same sentiment that a lot of churches have before a shooting occurs.
It can happen to you, even if the risks are inherently low.
States That Allow Guns in Church
Concealed carry laws vary from one state to another. Two states that don’t allow guns to be carried in the US:
Most states will require that the pastor accept concealed carry in a religious center. You will have to consult with both your church and state laws to see what’s legal and not legal in your state.
In the following states, you will need the permission of the pastor and must maintain a valid permit, too:
- District of Columbia
- South Carolina
Please note that the rules of the church or state can change at any time. It’s important to check these rules often to ensure that you’re not breaking the law. If your church has a new pastor, it’s important to ask for permission to conceal carry even if your previous pastor was fine with you doing so.
How to Create a Church Security Plan
Church safety and security shouldn’t end with a single member coming to the rescue of the entire congregation. You should get together with the church and key members to create a plan.
The steps you take to boost church security today can save a life tomorrow.
A few of the many steps you may want to take, include:
- Assign roles in the church so that certain members will call 911, others will speak to authorities, others may administer emergency assistance. Create roles and backup roles so that if someone is absent or injured, someone else can take charge.
- Evaluate members of the church who may have specialty skills. These members may include emergency personnel, law enforcement or ex-military members. These individuals can be vital to your plan and will also be able to assist if a shooting does occur.
- Identify members of the church that have a CCW permit. These key members have training that will allow them to assist if a shooting occurs. Identifying CCW holders and explaining their role if a shooting occurs can be vital to your security plan. These individuals may be able to subdue an active shooter and save lives in the process.
- Block unlocked doors that may allow a shooter to enter if there is more than one. Exit doors should be unlocked from the inside, yet not allow someone outside of the church to enter. The goal is to create a single entrance so that if a shooter enters, it’s easier to plan around their areas of attack.
- Monitoring of the parking lot is a good choice. This is done by assigning volunteers that will monitor the space and discuss any issues via two-way radio. The goal is to be able to identify a potential shooter before they enter the door.
- Position members of the congregation and the pulpit close to exit doors. Proper positioning allows for members of congregation and the pastor to quickly exit the building via an emergency exit.
- Illuminate all of the exit doors and also alert members of these doors at the start of the service. The goal is not to alarm the congregation, but to point out safe exit ways that allow members to get to safety in the event of any form of emergency.
- Add warning systems to the church that are able to be quickly activated. These systems can alert members to a safety issue and can also alert members who may be in the bathroom or walking in of potential safety issues,
- Isolate the intruder if possible. A lot of plans involve locking as many doors as possible to try and box the intruder in. The idea is to keep the intruder out of reach of as many members as possible. Of course, locking the doors should only be done when safe. Calling law enforcement, exiting the building and getting to safety are the key most important steps to take.
You will want to sit down and talk to leaders in the congregation. A “what if” discussion can generate a slew of safety ideas and allow you to put a plan in place that protects all members of the congregation.
Pushing church security off can cause unwanted risks and does church members no good if an emergency situation arises.
While daunting and even frightful to create at first, the right plan can address emergency situations. You don’t have to stop with a plan for an active shooter either. You can also have plans for hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters that can lead to significant harm or death.
If your church is large, it may be worthwhile to have security guards in place that will watch the entryways and assist if a shooting does occur.