Thoughts on Church Security
We as a country are, for the moment, focused on the church shooting in the Fort Worth, Texas area that occurred yesterday, December 29th.
As you may know, the active shooter, armed with a shotgun, was shot and killed by one or two armed parishioners, who were members of a volunteer security team formed by the church, within seconds of the opening of the attack.
The leader of the security team, Jack Wilson, is credited with the first shot in response to the attack. He drew his firearm and made a tough shot, under a great deal of stress, in under six seconds. It was not surprising to learn he owned and operated a firearms training school for a number of years. His training showed when it was most needed. Another security team member was tragically killed by the gunman.
This most recent event, perhaps more profoundly than many, many other incidents of armed citizens stopping violent attacks, has brought the issue of church security to the fore. More and more houses of worship are thinking about this more seriously than ever before. The dramatic video also shows several more armed church members responding after the gunman was shot down. Adding to the serious attention being given this issue are the anti-Semitic attacks, especially the most violent ones that just occurred in New York City during religious services.
There are a number of good programs out there that address how civilians can respond to active shooter events. Many of those programs, like ALICE and ALERRT, come from the issue of school security and translate well into Active Shooter Response in houses of worship, as well as corporate environments.
These programs use time tested concepts of action/reaction, startle response, and other concepts that can be practiced and could very well save lives in the event of an active shooter. But these must be properly implemented and consistently practiced.
However, many of these programs have little, if any, emphasis on an armed response by those closest to the threat; the worshipers at the service, teachers in the schools, or employees in corporations.
In most cases the armed response is the one most likely to end the threat quickly and with far less loss of life. But the decision to implement this option is one that must be undertaken with the utmost seriousness. Some of the most important considerations are:
It must be voluntary, with team members committing to the initial and ongoing training required to become and remain competent. Training to raise the team members’ situational awareness and threat recognition is a critical first step. Also, training must include mental and emotional preparation for an active shooter event, as well as the physical training required to give the volunteers the required techniques to stop a lethal attack.
The armed volunteer teams, as well as other unarmed worshipers/teachers/employees must undertake basic trauma medical training. At a bare minimum they must have and know how to use tourniquets. The national Stop the Bleed campaign is a good place to start, and several programs are out there sharing the lessons learned from the battlefield about how to save the lives of persons shot in active shooter incidents.
It must have broad support in the institution. Let’s face it, not everyone will be comfortable knowing several of their friends/colleagues/co-workers are armed. But with most people supporting this move, and a thoughtful and supportive effort made to reduce the fears of those unsure of accepting this decision, the transition to a more secure and armed posture can be managed.
If an armed option is chosen, there is no shortcut to competence. Volunteers must undergo, at a minimum, an intensive period of training in the Fundamentals of Marksmanship and drilled in those fundamentals under increasing levels of stress and decreasing limits of time. Accuracy under these ever-higher standards cannot be sacrificed. Unfortunately, movies and television have led to unrealistic expectations of what firearms can and cannot do, not to mention the ease with which media portray their employment.
If you commit to an armed option for your institution’s security, seek professional training from reputable organizations. Avoid “tacti-cool” trainers with dubious credentials and unrealistic goals. The stakes are too high.
Thanks, and be safe. Learn more about us at:
Citizens Defense Training (citizensdt.com)
Police Defensive Firearms Training (policedft.com)
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