Churches are widely recognized as a place for peace or a “safe haven”. Every week many different types of people enter a church to practice their faith or simply seeking comfort. On November 5th, 2017 a 26 year old man named Devin Kelley entered the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas and fatally shot 26 people. His rampage was a brutal reminder that no place is safe.
In this article, we’ll take a look at church security and how this terrible tragedy has changed the security landscape for houses of worship across the U.S.
Existing Security in Churches
Many churches around the country already have increased security by hiring Private Security Guards. Typically, they patrol parking lots and the premises and are used to deter lesser crimes such as theft and vandalism as well as prevent fires. Churches with larger budgets often include video monitoring and even scanning stations. But how many Security Guards are armed and trained for an active shooter situation? What is the likelihood of it occurring at all?
A criminologist named Dallas Drake conducted a study of U.S church shootings from 1980- 2005 and then again from 2006 to 2016. There were 147 shootings between 2006-2016 which was an increase from 137 the previous period. Drake’s research also showed that there were only seven incidents between 1980 and 2005 where more than four people were shot. His research showed that while the number of shootings increased, a mass shooting at a church was still incredibly rare. Churches have limited budgets and may not be able to afford Security for the small chance of a mass shooting. Until a few months ago, churches in Texas had limited options.
A Law Change
Prior to the September 2017 shooting, churches in Texas were only required to hire certified Security Guards. A law change now allows churches to choose their own Security team regardless of official certification.
The change to Senate Bill 2065 now exempts a person from the requirement to be registered or licensed with the Private Security Program if providing volunteer security services on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of religious worship. The individuals may not wear a uniform or otherwise give the impression that they are a peace officer, personal protection officer, or security officer.
This law change can help churches save money on hiring Armed Security Guards and create a feeling of safety for all members of the church knowing that armed volunteers are always present. It remains to be seen if other states will follow suit, but it’s clear churches are taking security seriously.
The Debate Rages On
There are still those that believe there is no place for hired guns in a church, despite the increase in mass shootings. They believe having armed security present will take away from church being a sacred place and that it won’t stop a determined killer.
The decision to employ Armed Security Guards or use volunteer security is a decision for each church and their congregation to make individually. However, it may also just be a matter of time before a mass shooting happens again.
Protection through Dark Times
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