When I speak at various venues, whether community groups or religious organizations, I am often asked why I carry a gun pretty much every day. My answer is always the same: Because none of us know where or when a violent incident is going to unfold. Being prepared everywhere simply makes sense, even in houses of worship.

Last weekend, violent attacks in a synagogue in New York and a church in Texas illustrated this reality. In the New York case, a man armed with a machete viciously attacked Jewish congregants celebrating Hanukkah at the home of a rabbi. [USA Today]

The attacker then went next door to the synagogue itself, seeking more victims. But when he found the doors locked, he ran to his car and fled. He was arrested a short time later, but only after he had inflicted horrific injuries. Unfortunately, no one at the celebration had been armed.

In Texas, Things Were Different

“Armed Congregants Kill Gunman Who Shot 2 at Texas Church” – [ABC News]

The Texas case is particularly interesting for several reasons. First, unlike in most such attacks, there is real-time video of the event, clearly depicting both the shooter and the multiple parishioners who were armed and able to stop him.

Second, this was a perfect illustration of the old saying: “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” Armed parishioners returned fire immediately, stopping the shooter. The entire event lasted a mere six seconds!

Without a doubt, many lives were saved. In those cases where religious institutions were not able to defend themselves, the casualties were far greater. In some cases, the gun-free zone resulted in dozens killed and many more wounded. Guns do save lives.

Third, there was an element of luck in this case as well. When the shooter began his attack, he was at the left front corner of the church, meaning there were no other innocent bystanders behind him. This was partly why the armed parishioners were able to take him down so quickly.

What We Can Learn

Obviously, these incidents show that no matter how fast law enforcement can react to an attack, it won’t be fast enough. You are onsite; the police are not. Why this is such a difficult concept for some people to comprehend is beyond my understanding. Other than being the result of a rabid hostility toward guns and gun owners, “gun-free” zones defy common sense.

One aspect of the Texas incident is the incredibly responsible behavior of armed parishioners. Video shows that only those who had a clear shot discharged their firearms. When some of them clearly had confused bystanders between themselves and the attacker, they chose not to shoot.

Such restraint clearly refutes the false claim of our opponents that “only police are trained sufficiently to deal with armed threats.” All of those in the Texas church shooting behaved admirably — even heroically — especially in facing an attacker who was wielding a shotgun.

Awareness Matters

One aspect of the Texas case that contributed to the fast reaction by the armed parishioners was they noticed the shooter acting suspiciously before he opened fire. [The New York Times].

If you’re walking around with your face buried in your phone, having a gun may not matter. Maintain situational awareness, wherever you are.

About John Caile

John Caile is an NRA Firearms Instructor Certified in Pistol, Rifle, Shotgun, Home Firearm 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 and 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.

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