August 9, 2012
Defending Your Church from a Dangerous Person
Important reminders in the aftermath of a shooting at a Sikh temple.
A shooting at a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee this past Sunday morning reminds us that dangerous people can, and sometimes do, walk into places of worship in the U.S. Six people were killed and three injured after a suspect opened fire. This news comes less than a month after a movie-theater shooting left twelve dead and dozens injured in Colorado.
"I think all of us recognize that these kinds of terrible events are happening with too much regularity for us not to do some soul searching and examine additional ways we can reduce violence," President Obama said this week, according to CBS News.
It’s difficult to imagine how to stop a gunman entering a church, but there is hope: A few months ago, churchgoers in South Carolina restrained a gunman during a Sunday service. The Huffington Post reports churchgoers watched through the church's windows as the 38-year-old assailant approached the building; half a dozen attenders responded when he burst through the doors, the website said.
A couple of churches in West Virginia have prepared for such a situation, according to 59News. Family Worship Center in Beckley has a security team of six people trained to be ready and ensure that specific doors are locked. “Once service starts, certain doors are locked, that way nobody can get in and out of those doors except for the main doors,” senior pastor Ken Wright says. “And we have places that they are assigned and they watch over just to make sure there’s no activity going on that shouldn’t be.” Another church, the Heart of God Ministries in Beckley, a church of around 400, trains greeters and ushers to watch for anything suspicious. Both churches have security cameras and allow their security on staff to carry guns if they wish.
Developing security teams, implementing specialized procedures, installing surveillance cameras and emergency buttons, limiting office access, and using thorough screening procedures can empower and enable churches to help keep staff and congregants safe.