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More than half of US churches have armed church members trained for active shooter: Survey

A concealed handgun. (Dreamstime/TNS)
June 09, 2023

As mass shootings seem to dominate the news cycle, more U.S. businesses and schools have initiated safety plans, security staff and training on how to respond to potential violence. 

A recent study by Lifeway shows that churches are no exception. According to the Washington Times, the survey of Protestant pastors indicated that 57% of pastors confirm “an intentional plan for an active shooter situation” as the most cited option for security.

To that end, 81% of churches have at least one security measure in place, while 54% employ armed congregants in security measures. Only 21% maintained a no-firearms policy for church buildings. 

Twenty percent revealed that there are armed, private-security details on site, while another 5% said uniformed officers are present during worship services. 

According to VOA News, the first documented mass shooting occurred in 1980 at the First Baptist Church in Daingerfield, Texas. Since then, shootings in places of worship have increased, with 17 percent of mass shootings between 2018 and 2020 having religious motivations. 

Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, views the security measures as necessary and not in contradiction to Christian tenants, according to Christianity Today. 

“Churches are not immune to violence, disputes, domestic disagreements, vandalism and burglary,” McConnell said. “While loving one another is a core Christian teaching, churchgoers still sin, and non-churchgoers are invited and welcomed. So, real security threats exist whether a congregation wants to acknowledge them or not.” 

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According to CBN, many individuals feel that controversy regarding religious beliefs dictates a need for additional security.

Andy Willis, head of security at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, shared this opinion.

“Today, churches that speak the truth, that teach and preach true biblical promises, they draw a lot of attention because there are a lot of components of society today that don’t want to hear that,” Willis said. “As a church security team, we have to be prepared for those kinds of situations, to intervene and protect the flock.”

According to the Law Enforcement Bulletin, the rise in church security has created an opportunity for places of worship to contract off-duty police officers. Stillwater, Oklahoma, for example, allows officers to be contracted at a rate of $50 per hour. 

Most local police organizations that allow officers to contract out as security typically enforce strict, non-discriminatory service guidelines as well as voluntary status for officers who wish to serve during off-duty hours.

Officers who volunteer aren’t able to choose where they will provide security and can be stationed at churches, schools, events or public occasions such as fairs. Other churches have initiated organized, armed volunteer security.