Industry Focus

Crisis on the Sabbath Day

Should more parishioners carry guns in church? Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says yes, because as he sees it: “This is going to happen again.”

Following the mass shooting at the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church in early November, Paxton suggested more guns should be in church to thwart the next massacre.

“We need people in churches, either professional security or at least arming some of the parishioners or the congregation so that they can respond…when something like this happens again,” Paxton said.

Who would have ever thought this level of security would be needed in The House of the Lord?

Again, the unthinkable, a 26-year-old man (who will not be named in any issue of Security Today) entered a Baptist church in South Texas with the desire to kill other human beings. Would security have made a difference? Maybe only in the final analysis, but this person was set on pure evil.

Gun control? Not so fast there, buddy.

The problem does not lie with security, or a lack thereof, or with guns, in general. The problem is set within the man and his pedestrian lifestyle of harming others. The question is how this person was able to buy these weapons in the first place, or why the system faltered in allowing him to purchase a gun. His name should have been entered in a federal database when he was dishonorably discharged from the Air Force three years ago. Air Force officials missed the mark by not getting his name on that list.

Red flags should have been surrounding this person for the past three years. Why? Because he was discharged from the military for domestic disputes with this wife and child. He applied for but was turned down for a Texas right-to-carry permit. It was after that, that he was able to purchase the gun he used Nov. 5. Questions remain as to how he was able to purchase two weapons in Colorado and two guns in Texas.

This event is absolutely a wake-up call no matter where you are in security planning. Travis Hayes, CEO of Redemption Church in Greenville, S.C., said they have armed and unarmed guards on their campus, and work closely with the Greenville Police and the county sheriff’s office.

On the other hand, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Utah, where more than 60 percent of Utahans affiliate, and the Utah Jewish Congregation Kol Ami have taken steps required by state law to prohibit guns on their premises.

Houses of worship are relatively unprotected sites, and many churches are rethinking security measures where people should feel the safest. In Sutherland Springs, Texas, dozens of people likely never thought about security the morning they went to church services. Children as young as 18 months and grandparents up to the age of 77 are gone from this life. Not because of lack of security, but lack of attention from a system that blames the gun, and not the deranged madman.

There is a fine balance in having armed security on every corner versus and opendoor, come-as-you-are House of the Lord. We have to identify that balance.

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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