As active shooter situations in churches have become more prevalent, a majority of churches have put security teams in place, with many adopting plans for active shooters and allowing their parishioners to carry weapons. Lifeway Research released the results of a recent survey, conducted before the shooting at West Freeway Church of Christ in December.
When presented with a list of security measures they have put in place when their church meets for worship, 62 percent of protestant pastors said their church has a plan for an active shooter, 45 percent have church members who carry weapons, and 28 percent provide radio communication for their security personnel. Additionally, 23 percent provide armed security at their services and 6 percent have uniformed police officers on site during worship.
Some churches have gone the opposite route, with 27 percent of churches saying that they have a strict policy against possessing firearms in worship. Also, 3 percent of churches employ metal detectors at the entrance to check for weapons.
While 19 shootings have taken place at churches since the year 2000, several high-profile cases have pushed this issue to the forefront. The nation was shocked in June 2015 when a 21-year-old man killed nine people during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
In November 2017, a 26-year-old man murdered 26 people at First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs, located in a small town outside of San Antonio, Texas. On the last Sunday of 2019, a 43-year-old-man walked into the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas wearing a fake beard, a wig, and a bulky jacket. The man stood up during Communion and killed two people before he was shot by a church security guard.
Scott McConnell, the executive director of Lifeway Research, explained the choice of many churches to use security teams. “Churches are some of the most common gatherings in any community, and that makes them targets.” He added, “Most churches understand this and have responded in some way.”
As expected, differences exist among churches based both on doctrinal and regional differences. 54 percent of evangelical pastors report that they have armed church members as part of their security response, compared with only 34 percent of mainline pastors. Over half of Pentecostal, Baptist, and Church of Christ pastors have armed church members as part of their security plans, but less than one-third of Methodist, Lutheran, and Presbyterian or Reformed pastors do. Also, 51 percent of pastors in the South and 46 percent of those in the West have armed church members. However, only 33 percent of churches in the Northeast take these measures.
Trampus Taylor, the police chief in Sparta, MO who started the security team at Ava Assembly of God, summed up the reason many churches have adopted security measures. He told NBC News, “Fifty years ago, you could say no guns should be allowed in church, but times have changed. Shootings happen everywhere.”
Scott Slayton writes at “One Degree to Another.”
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