head-in-sand (1)

by John Boch
Every church should have one or more good guys or gals with guns protecting the flock. Every synagogue. Every temple. Anyplace people gather to worship should have a 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, sometimes with and sometimes without the church leadership’s knowledge. Sometimes legally, sometimes not-so-much.

I’ve carried discretely in church, even at my wedding, and ever since. I have no doubt my [now-former] pastor in Pontiac knew I carried. But even as I did what I had to do to keep my lovely bride and myself safe, I knew that guns don’t necessarily make churches safer.

At a couple of Guns Save Life meetings, I have had well-meaning individuals ask me about the legality of carrying in church without a carry license.

I explained the legalities, but privately wondered to myself:  How well do they know the law on the judicious use of deadly force if they didn’t even know the legalities of carrying on private property without a license?

Church safety and security depends primarily on familiarity with a wide variety of non-firearms-related skills.  After all, the last thing any church needs is a well-meaning do-gooder with a gun drawing it over a mildly heated child custody dispute or similar issue.  When all you have is a hammer, everything can look like a nail as the old expression goes.

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 occasional visitors.

They need de-escalation skills, to verbally resolve conflicts which improperly handled could become physical. 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 control an uncooperative subject, without resorting to their gun. Or, in direst of situations, to access a gun and use it effectively.

I do know one expert on church security training: Tom Whitaker of Metro Krav Maga in Collinsville, IL.

Tom’s a black belt in Krav Maga. He trained at Israel’s Wingate Institute. Having spent his younger years working and managing security in bars, he picked up a lot of knowledge from the school of hard knocks.  He also has extensive study behind him.

After his Maryville, IL 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 for a free-will offering.

Tom stresses what I’ve outlined above: the vast majority of 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 a parishioner’s last, unavoidable option.

All that said, I’ll take an armed innocent without any training willing to take action against a lethal threat over an unarmed victim waiting for help, or their demise, any day. 

From the Washington Post’s coverage of the Texas Church massacre:

The gunman fired four shots into the torso of the woman on Farida Brown’s left, David Brown said.

“With every shot, she was crying,” he said of the woman. “She was just staring at my mom while she tried to comfort her.” As he fired rounds into the woman, Farida Brown held her hand, telling her she was heading to heaven.

If you want to be a more effective guardian of your religious community know this: the greatest weapon is only as good as the person who uses it.

While "Good" in the sense of good vs. evil sets the foundation, there's more to it than having a good heart.  The state of "good" as in skilled, trained and prepared will better serve both you and the persons around you.

For those interested in discussing church security concerns, or in receiving training, Tom Whitaker can be reached at 
Metro Krav Maga
Collinsville, IL.  

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