Recent attacks on synagogues, churches and mosques have brought into painfully sharp focus the fact that people of all faiths need to consider adopting defensive measures for the places they congregate. The shooting at the Poway, California, synagogue last Saturday (4/27/19) is merely the latest.
‘Gun-Free Zones’ Are Not the Answer
Arguments that houses of worship “are no place for guns” are simply naïve and pointless. Those bent on mass murder obviously couldn’t care less. On the contrary, experience has shown that advertising your house of worship as completely defenseless is practically an invitation to a killer.
Instead, you must enact effective policies. Ground them in reality — whether or not they “offend” someone’s sensibilities. And like it or not, the only proven defense against mass public shooters is to have one or more people on site who are armed.
Some congregations have hired outside security staff, but more than a few religious groups operate on minimal budgets and would find the cost prohibitive. More common is the situation where members with firearms training and experience are asked to act as volunteer security.
Immediate Response Is Vital
Having one or more armed defenders is a good start. But to be effective, they need to be able to react immediately. The majority of the damage is done in the first few minutes of an attack, before the police even arrive. You must be able to confront an attacker as soon as he or she is identified.
One defender in the Poway incident was Jonathan Morales, an off-duty Border Patrol agent with above-average firearms experience. It is unclear at this time whether he was armed, was given a handgun by another parishioner or had to retrieve his gun from storage. An unarmed military veteran named Oscar Stewart also charged the assailant, shouting orders to “Get down!”
Facing opposition, the shooter dropped his weapon, possibly due to a malfunction, and ran out of the building. Morales and Stewart pursued the coward outside. Stewart tried to punch out the assailant’s car window before Morales told him to stand aside. The border agent fired several shots in an attempt to disable the vehicle, but the murderer managed to drive away.
Thankfully, the death toll in this incident was much lower than in many previous cases. This is due in large part to the courage, situational awareness and training of members of the congregation.
Improving Security at Your Congregation
No matter your religious affiliation, your place of worship could be at risk, whether from terrorists or psychopaths. If your house of worship already has defensive protocols in place, make sure they include armed personnel. If not, make your wishes known. Nothing happens unless and until people like you speak up.
Many congregations now conduct active-shooter drills. Everyone in the group needs to understand what they should or should not do in the event of an attack.
Remember, even if armed personnel are part of your protocols, noticing (and stopping) a potential attacker before he or she gains access to the main portion of the facility can save lives. Situational awareness is key.
You will more than likely run into resistance from some who argue that a house of worship should be a place of safety. Remind them that this is precisely what you are trying to ensure by recognizing the reality of the world we live in.
I carry every Sunday at my church. My pastor recently told me how much he appreciates it.
About John Caile
John Caile is an NRA Firearms Instructor certified in Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Home Firearms Safety and Personal Protection in the Home. He has more than 35 years of experience in concealed carry training and practical handgun shooting skills. John was Communications Director of the Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee and was instrumental in passing Minnesota’s landmark concealed carry permit law. John is a contributing writer for USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine and has appeared on national talk radio and network and public television. He has been frequently published in the press. John lives in Palm Coast, Florida, where he continues his lifelong activism for gun owners and their rights.