Confronting gun violence in church

The LA Times reports on churches preparing for gun violence in church:

Violence in churches is on the rise, experts say.

As more shootings at houses of worship make headlines, churches around the country are stepping up security, training their staff on how to detect and confront violent assailants, and asking congregants with licenses to carry guns during services.

Some church leaders are taking workshops on what do if violence breaks out in their church:

The class, which met in a nondescript hotel conference room, was led by Vaughn Baker, who owns a security company called Strategos International. Baker is one of several church security consultants who travel the country like itinerant preachers, teaching seminars and writing up security plans for church leaders.

After an opening prayer, Baker offered some grim statistics. In the last decade, he said, 50 people were killed and 30 wounded in 35 church shootings. In 2007, there were six church shootings. In 2008, there were 18.

In most cases, the shooter was someone with a connection to the church.

“You guys know the world’s not getting better,” said Baker, who, along with many church security consultants, is a churchgoer and has a background in law enforcement. “We’ve got to protect ourselves. . . . The trick of it and the art of it is protecting the congregation and ministry without compromising their sense of worship and refuge and sanctuary.”

Traditional security measures, like metal detectors or pat-downs, might compromise that sense of sanctuary, Baker said. So he proposed other, subtler methods. He suggested that churches organize undercover security teams — and recommended that some members come armed with concealed weapons.

If violence breaks out at church, it could take minutes for even the fastest police and rescue crews to respond, Baker said, “and there’s a whole lot of bad that can happen in two to three minutes.”

Baker, like other security consultants, said churchgoers need to fight back instead of hiding if they’re being attacked, as many students have been coached to do in the event of a school shooting. “If I’m going to get beat, I’m going to get beat doing something,” Baker said. “I’m not going to get beat doing nothing.”

Do you think packing guns in church is the answer?

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