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Armed Vs. Unarmed Church Security Teams: Which is the Better Option?
As mass shootings and acts of violence continue to plague our society, places of worship have become increasingly vulnerable. In response, many churches have formed security teams to protect their congregations. However, there is much debate over whether these teams should be armed or unarmed. In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of each option and ultimately determine which is the better choice for church security.
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Why Churches Need Security Teams
Places of worship have traditionally been considered safe and peaceful places. However, recent events have shattered this perception. According to the Faith-Based Security Network, there were 273 incidents of violence against places of worship in the United States in 2019 alone. These incidents include shootings, arson, and vandalism.
Given these statistics, it is clear that churches need security teams to protect their congregations. These teams serve as a deterrent to potential attackers and provide a rapid response in case of an emergency.
Pros and Cons of Armed Security Teams
One of the main advantages of having armed security teams is that they have the ability to respond quickly and effectively to an attacker. They are trained to neutralize threats and protect the congregation. Additionally, armed security teams can serve as a deterrent to potential attackers. Knowing that there are armed individuals in the church may discourage an attacker from targeting the church in the first place.
The main disadvantage of armed security teams is that it takes a high level of training. Most people think that because a person has a concealed weapons permit that the person is automatically qualified to go on the offense in a dynamic, evolving situation. Using a firearm offensively against an assailant in a crowded church takes skill and training, not just having a love for firearms. Additionally, having armed security teams can create a sense of fear or discomfort among some members of the congregation.
When I first attended my church after moving to the area, I talked to a pastor about where I could best serve the church. He asked if I was a “gun guy” and after I said I was, he suggested the security team would be a good fit.
SImply being a “gun guy” is not enough. We have changed things since then, but many churches choose their armed security off of someone’s love of firearms. Don’t get me wrong, I love aviation and all things that fly. I even know how to fly, but I don’t have a license, hours in the plane and haven’t been checked out on a 747. That love doesn’t mean I get to fly your next transAtlantic flight.
You’ll have to tell some people that they can’t serve armed. You’ll also need a robust firearms training program to teach them new skills and to stay proficient in their shooting regimen.
Pros and Cons of Unarmed Security Teams
The main advantage is that there is no need for continual firearms training and qualifications, saving time for other training in the church. Unarmed security teams can still be effective in deterring potential attackers and responding to emergencies.
The main disadvantage of unarmed security teams is that they are less effective in neutralizing an attacker. Without weapons, unarmed security teams may be unable to stop an attacker before they cause harm to the congregation.
I think this is the best option. With a hybrid team, some members are armed and some served unarmed. Unarmed persons can serve as camera operators, intelligence analysts looking for threats, and as an extra set of eyes and ears. If people meet your stringent qualification standards, then they can served armed and can receive extra training to protect the flock.
Training Requirements for Church Security Teams
Regardless of whether a church security team is armed or unarmed, proper training is essential. All members of the security team should undergo training in threat assessment, emergency response, and communication. Additionally, armed security team members must undergo firearms training and obtain a concealed carry permit.
Even in states that have constitutional carry, where a citizen does not need a permit to carry concealed, a concealed carry permit looks good to a jury. Most police shootings end in a lawsuit. You should expect the same for yourself in a church shooting. Having that permit just shows the jury you have another layer of qualifications.
Training should be ongoing, with regular refresher courses and drills to ensure that all team members are prepared for an emergency. Training should cover topics such as:
Threat assessment and identification
Emergency response procedures
Use of force and firearms training (for armed security teams)
First aid and emergency medical response
Situational awareness and de-escalation techniques
Legal considerations and liability issues
It is also important to have a designated leader or coordinator for the security team who is responsible for organizing and overseeing training and drills.
By investing in proper training, churches can ensure that their security teams are prepared to respond to emergencies and protect the congregation.
Best Practices for Church Security Teams
In addition to training, there are several best practices that all church security teams should follow. These include:
Developing a comprehensive security plan: A well-designed security plan is essential for protecting the congregation. It should include emergency procedures, communication protocols, and contingency plans for various scenarios.
Conducting regular drills and exercises: Regular drills and exercises can help the security team prepare for emergencies and ensure that everyone knows their role.
Building relationships with local law enforcement: The security team should establish a working relationship with local law enforcement to ensure a quick response in case of an emergency.
Maintaining situational awareness: All members of the security team should be alert and aware of their surroundings at all times.
Providing excellent customer service: The security team should be approachable and friendly, making sure that all members of the congregation feel welcome and safe.
The Importance of a Comprehensive Security Plan
A comprehensive security plan is essential for protecting the congregation from potential threats. The plan should include procedures for responding to emergencies such as an active shooter, medical emergencies, and natural disasters. It should also establish communication protocols, assign roles and responsibilities, and provide guidance on how to evacuate the building safely.
A security plan should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that it remains effective and relevant. Additionally, all members of the security team should be trained on the plan and be familiar with their role in case of an emergency.
Legal Considerations for Armed Security Teams
If a church decides to have armed security teams, there are several legal considerations to keep in mind. Depending on the state, armed security team members may be required to obtain a concealed carry permit or undergo additional training. Additionally, the church may need to purchase liability insurance in case of an accidental shooting.
It is essential that the church consults with legal counsel before implementing an armed security team to ensure that they are complying with all relevant laws and regulations.
Case Studies: Examples of Armed and Unarmed Church Security Teams
There have been several high-profile cases of armed and unarmed church security teams responding to emergencies. In 2017, an armed security team at a church in Texas stopped an active shooter, preventing a potential massacre. In contrast, an unarmed security team at a church in Tennessee was unable to stop an attacker in 2018, resulting in several deaths.
These cases illustrate the importance of a well-trained and prepared security team, regardless of whether they are armed or unarmed.
In conclusion, the decision to have armed or unarmed security teams in churches is a complex one. While armed security teams may be better equipped to respond to an active shooter, there is also a need for advanced training, policies and qualifications. Unarmed security teams may be less effective in stopping an attacker, but they are also less likely to use up valuable training time with firearms training.
Ultimately, the decision should be based on the unique needs and circumstances of each church. Regardless of the choice, proper training, and a comprehensive security plan are essential for protecting the congregation.
Do all churches need security teams?
While not all churches may need security teams, it is recommended that all places of worship have a comprehensive security plan in place.
Can volunteers serve on church security teams?
Yes, volunteers can serve on church security teams. However, they must undergo proper training and meet any legal requirements for armed security team members.
What is the difference between a church security team and a police officer?
Church security teams are not law enforcement officers and do not have the same authority as police officers. However, they can serve as a valuable resource in protecting the congregation.
How can churches prevent violence before it occurs?
Preventing violence before it occurs is always preferable to responding to it after the fact. Churches can take several steps to reduce the likelihood of violence, including:
Developing a culture of kindness and respect: By promoting kindness and respect within the congregation, churches can help to prevent conflicts from escalating into violence.
Providing mental health resources: Many acts of violence are committed by individuals with mental health issues. Churches can provide resources such as counseling and support groups to help individuals struggling with mental health issues.
Implementing access control measures: Controlling access to the church can help to prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the building. This can include measures such as locking doors and monitoring entrances.
Conducting background checks: Churches should conduct background checks on all employees and volunteers to identify individuals who may pose a risk to the congregation.
Providing training on recognizing and reporting suspicious behavior: All members of the congregation should be trained on how to recognize and report suspicious behavior to the security team or law enforcement.
By taking these steps, churches can help to prevent violence before it occurs and create a safer environment for their congregation.
How often should church security teams review their security plan?
Church security teams should review their security plan on a regular basis to ensure that it remains effective and relevant. This may include conducting annual reviews or conducting a review after any major changes to the church or surrounding area. Additionally, the security plan should be reviewed after any emergency response to identify areas for improvement.