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An Armed Congregation

In late December, Jack Wilson shot and killed a man in a small Texas church. The man had just opened fire on a congregation at Sunday services in White Settlement, a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, killing two people and injuring others before Wilson acted quickly to end the threat. Wilson is a firearms instructor and the volunteer head of security at West Freeway Church of Christ where the attack occurred, and he is lauded as a hero—even receiving an award from the governor of Texas.

In the three weeks that have followed, there have been numerous news stories about security in houses of worship across the United States as Wilson’s action is presented as an example of why an armed church security function is important when the consequences are highest. In the white paper published by ASIS’s Cultural Properties Council titled Recommending Best Practices for Securing Houses of Worship Around the World for People of All Faiths, the authors do not take a position on armed security in houses of worship, saying simply: “Attend firearms training if your committee recommends that individuals are armed during services and special events.” There are plenty of opinion pieces arguing for or against firearms in houses of worship.

What follows are links to some of the straight news reporting pieces that have appeared in local and regional news outlets since the White Settlement attack. Most of the articles look at how local churches have implemented an armed security presence. A few characteristics are echoed through the articles:

  • They echo the ASIS white paper: Armed house of worship security personnel (volunteer or otherwise) should be trained in security practices and firearms.
  • Houses of worship should work with local law enforcement as part of their security planning.
  • When possible, if states or localities have laws or regulations that address private security policies or personnel, then houses of worship should conform to the laws or regulations.

Sheriff McBrayer: Church Security ‘Can’t Be the Wild West,’” from the Henry Herald (Georgia): Interview with local sheriff who offers workshops and other trainings and advice to church leaders on security. An excellent list of links on security at houses of worship is compiled at the end of the article.

Meet the Texas-Based Church Security Business Training Worshipers to Fight Back in Mass Shootings,” from the Texas Tribune: Profile of houses of worship security training organization National Organization for Church Security and Safety Management, noting an increase in interest after White Settlement.

Hauk Offers Free Training, Shooting Time to Armed Churchgoers,” from The Daily Times (Blount County, Tennessee): Story on local gun range owner allowing church security teams to practice at this range for free.

Ala. Offers Protection from Prosecution in Cases Like Texas Church Shooting, AG Says,” from WSFA12 News (Montgomery, Alabama): Story on proposed legislation in the state that would “provide criminal and civil immunity if an armed person used a firearm to defend themselves or another person in a place of worship.”

Churches Grapple with Increasing Security While Continuing Mission of Worship,” from Scottsbluff Star Herald (Nebraska): Story covers two churches approach to security.