Church Security

It’s not a “gun free zone.” But that doesn’t mean it’s safe.

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Church security is too important to take a DIY approach.

NPR recently reported on a small-town church that advertises it is not a “gun free zone.” Many members of the congregation show up armed for worship. While we admire the church’s alert stance, there are two things to note. 

One, homicidal maniacs are not going to be deterred by “gun free zone” slogans or signs. And two, some people will be deterred: People who might want to visit the church but are concerned about what kind of environment they’re stepping into. 

I’m not mentioning the specific church because I don’t know all the details. Perhaps it is much more organized and well trained than the report indicates. The media, as you know, does not always get it right. Still, the report offered an opportunity to comment on an increasingly-important topic.

A local professor interviewed in the article noted that “armed civilians are amateurs, and they are more likely to fire a stray shot that will harm someone unintentionally. They may lose their weapon, they may mistake an armed perpetrator from another who is trying to help. There are … more ways that things can go wrong than can go right.”

This professor is right. It takes specific skills and training to engage in a public, high-stakes firefight. Concealed-carry training is designed to protect an individual and a home. It does not equip someone to prevail at a crowded shopping mall, school or church. Friendly fire is never friendly.

To expand on this, it doesn’t matter if the armed protectors are civilians or law enforcement professionals. What matters is if they are they properly trained.

They must be able to make time-compressed decisions in a rapidly-evolving environment. In a crisis, the sympathetic nervous system (our “fight or flight” response) will be activated and they must be able to respond on the move, constantly adapting with the tactic called for in the moment.

Our hearts may be in the right place, but there’s no substitute for advanced training.

Let’s take church security seriously. But let’s be serious enough to do it right. 


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