Should We Hire Armed Guards?

Today the Chicago Tribune carried a story about how religious leaders are responding to the danger of gun violence in their houses of worship. Susanne Baker of the Naperville Sun reports that “While guns are not allowed in schools, libraries, government buildings and hospitals, houses of worship were not included on the list of prohibited public spaces when Illinois’ concealed carry law was adopted in 2013.”

What to do? The First Congregational Church United Church of Christ in Naperville voted to declare their church a “gun free zone,” and the First Baptist Church in Elgin plans to send members to attend an active shooter program at a local hospital. Larger churches may opt to hire more security.

The article also noted that because “FBI statistics from 2015 show more than half of U.S. hate crimes motivated by religious bias were anti-Jewish offenses and 22 percent were anti-Islamic (Muslim)” these communities are understandably even more concerned about safety.

Nevertheless, Rabbi Marc Rudolph of Congregation Beth Shalom observed that “Obviously (the Texas shooting) is a tragic circumstance that really can happen anywhere” . . .  “There’s very little an individual faith community can do, short of hiring armed guards, and even then there’s nothing to stop gunmen once they’re inside. What do we do, put metal detectors in every building? I don’t know what the answer is,” Rudolph said. “People need to feel safe in the churches, synagogues and mosques.”

The article also notes that there are spiritual issues involved in community response to the rise of mass shootings. UCC pastor, the Rev. Mark Winters, said “he has noticed a toxic level of fear overcoming people in the United States, which he says is causing a form of idolatry. Instead of trusting God, people are trusting guns.”

You can read the whole story here.

 

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6 comments

  1. There’s one huge issue with gun free zones: Terrorists and mentally ill people with malicious intent are drawn to such sites because they know they are likely to be the only armed individuals. A few months ago I empaneled a group of parish leaders to make security recommendations. We have yet to implement the recommendations which included hiring off duty policemen. In our community they are supplied with marked vehicles. I’d like to think the presence of a police car near the entrance of the church might suggest to evildoers that they should move on to another location. In the wake of the Texas church shooting, we will be moving forward.

  2. Having guards, armed or not, is not a brand new concept in churches. There have been a couple of local news articles over the years of pastors in high crime areas who have engaged security guards to protect their parishioners, as a result of specific crimes at those churches.

    Please note that this is not in response to mass shootings but more banal crime. It’s worth noting that shootings in the US from these “everyday” crimes dwarf the number of casualties from mass shootings, whether in church or (far more frequently) elsewhere. It’s a frustration for me that the public (or a part of it) gets somewhat roused about gun violence when there is a mass shooting and then seemingly goes back to sleep again a few days later. Meanwhile, it’s not unusual for there to be a couple of dozen or more shooting casualties in Chicago in a typical weekend. You can see the weekend-by-weekend “scoreboard” here.

    http://chicago.cbslocal.com/tag/weekend-violence/

    Absent a specific threat, I don’t think churches should hire guards on the (very remote) off-chance that a mass shooter decides to wreak havoc there. Just my view.

  3. I am ignorant of the history, but I always rather assumed that this was the purpose of the minor order of Porter – rather than just be a door-opener, a porter was more of a security guard/bouncer? Perhaps it’s the time to consider bringing this office back.

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