Keven Moore: In wake of Sutherland Springs shooting, should you take a gun to worship?

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Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

In the wake of another horrific church shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas where 26 people lost their lives and another 10 people were injured, Texas Attorney General later urged more people to bring guns to church, just hours after horrific mass shooting. The suggestion is that the only thing that stops a “bad guy” with a gun is a “good guy” with a gun.

The frequency of church shootings is rising. Who can forget the church shooting in Charleston, SC where nine people were murdered.

According to a GuideOne Insurance report as of July 2017 , from January 1999 through May 2017, there have been 1,551 deadly force incidents (DFIs) resulting in 1,420 victim deaths and injuries at faith-based organizations throughout the country. More than 100 of these incidents occurred in 2017 alone.

After this recent shooting nearly all of the estimated 350,000 churches in the United States are now revisiting their safety and security procedures, and the issue if they should arm their parishioners. Likewise hundreds of millions of parishioners who attend a religious service on a regular basis, are now wondering if they should begin to carry a firearm to church as well.

Ever since the Aurora, CO theater shooting in 2012, I have taken it upon myself to carry conceal just about every time I go shopping, attend a theater, restaurant and yes even when I go to church. Yes the chances of finding myself in a mass shooting are minuscule, but if confronted with a shooter in a church intent on doing me and my family harm, I feel that it is my inherent right to self-defense and I don’t want to have to rely on praying and chucking bibles for my protection.

Carrying a firearm isn’t for everyone, and I am not suggesting everybody should. It is a tremendous responsibility that requires a safe mindset and level-headedness. If you are unable to insure that you can act responsibly while carrying a gun; then do not carry. However, if you are certain that you can safely and conscientiously carry a gun, then do so and pray that you never have to use it.

I have never felt obligated to ask permission to carry my firearm anywhere where I have a legal right to have it. That is my personal choice and up until this point only my immediate family knew that I would be carrying when I worshipped. I know of others who choose to carry while worshipping as well.

As a Christian risk management and safety professional I have debated the need to self-protect in a house of worship. The fact that we need to consider defending ourselves in church proves that we live in a sinful and dangerous world. Do we have the right in God’s eyes to defend ourselves against such sin?

The first conflict that arises in my mind is how a Christian could kill somebody in self-defense because after all, the Ten Commandments tell us not to kill. Shouldn’t we instead have faith in God?

What I have come to realize is that it is my lack of faith in man – not in God – that causes me to carry. With the nearly 320,000,000 guns floating through our society, gun violence will not be going away in my lifetime, even if more gun control laws are passed. The only true way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.

I will never profess to be a biblical scholar, but I do know that in the bible God expects us to watch over his flock and be a “keeper” of our brother. Therefore I believe that it’s each individual’s duty to watch over and protect each of God’s children.

The fact is arming your church works. It was an armed man who ended the violence in Sutherland Springs.

At New Life Church in Colorado in 2007, a woman who was part of a volunteer armed security team, shot an anti-Christian gunman who had already opened fire on parishioners. He was carrying a bag of weapons, 1,000 rounds, and a pipe bomb.

In Antioch, Tenn., a 22-year-old man this past September confronted a gun-wielding man wearing a neoprene ski-mask after he had shot a woman in the parking lot and was intent on shooting others in the church. Once he started to shoot indiscriminately, the church-goer confronted the shooter who then accidentally shot himself during the struggle. The church-goer then went to his car to retrieve his gun and held him until the police arrived.

As international terrorism continues to grow, places of worship are not off limits. Churches are now more at risk to domestic terrorism more than ever. The fact is churches are a house of refuge, and many people dealing with domestic violence issues will seek refuge in the house of the Lord. This puts every parishioner at risk.

I suspect from research that many of the larger churches in your communities have already visited the need to add armed security and have the resources to have made this happen.

Some medium to smaller churches on the other hand may have also taken action.

The first step is to discover what your state law says about guns in churches. In Kentucky the law allows parishioners to carry conceal, unless otherwise posted by the church.

This leaves churches with the choices of either continuing to do nothing, hire off-duty law enforcement personnel, hire a professional security guard service or to assemble and maintain your own security guard force.

Of those options, which is safest?

While the decision rests with church and the elders, insurance carriers strongly encourage churches to consider either off-duty law enforcement officers or a professional security service.

These options provide superior training and experience in dealing with disruptive and/or potentially violent individuals as well as liability transfer or sharing, rather than the church being solely responsible for the actions of the security guard(s).

If a church wishes to hire a professional security service they should check references and ask lots of questions.

Inquire about the training, their screening process and make sure that the contract agrees to provide indemnity to your church for the actions of their officers and additional insured protection to your organization. Then, follow up to secure proof that your church has been added as an additional insured on their insurance policies. Also review the service’s use of force policy and make sure it’s consistent with your policy.

Forming an internal security team is the least-favorable option with insurance carriers because of the inherent risks that it presents. If a violent act occurs, your volunteers act as an agent of the church, and the church is responsible for how they respond, whether a weapon is fired or not. Some people do not have the skills, maturity, or psychological makeup to do this job, so proper selection is crucial, and churches should look to include retired law enforcement and military for this position. They should be pleasant, willing to engage people in positive ways, and have a good eye to see potential problems before they occur.

For smaller churches with limited resources this is the most cost effective option, but this choice carries the most liability. To limit the churches liability the church should provide adequate training annually, conduct thorough background checks, and set formal guidelines for dealing with various situations as well as the use of force. If a church choses this option it’s important to remember that a church can be found liable for negligent selection and training of security team members if they don’t do their due diligence.

It’s crucial that the church make sure that everyone on the team is fully trained beyond basic conceal and carry permit training, which doesn’t pertain to disruptive individuals. Partnering with local law enforcement is also recommended; they will consult with churches and provide trainings, often at no cost.

Working with a church security organization is another option for training. Lastly, make sure that your church is familiar with, and complies with, any state licensing requirements that might be applicable where your church forms an internal security team.

Churches should also consult with legal counsel to understand the law in your state and develop a policy in accordance. Churches should also communicate to their regular attendees what you have done to help them feel safe and communicate what policy if any you have in place for those who are not part of that security team.

Then finally have a discussion with your insurance agent or broker about you church’s concealed carry policy and how you are handling security. They will then tailor coverage accordingly.

Be Safe My Friends

Keven-Moore_1022

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both the Lexington and Northern Kentucky offices. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.

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