By: Ashleigh Meyer
In six seconds, three people lost their lives when a gunman opened fire in a church in Texas this past December.
Six seconds. From the moment the gunman brandished his weapon, to the moment he fell to the floor.
Thanks to his skill and experience in using a firearm, 71-year-old Jack Wilson was able to act quickly and carefully, wait for an opening free of church members, and take his shot, thus ending the shooting spree of a violent man. Now, the retired reserve sheriff deputy and weapons training instructor is advocating for churches to train and arm parishioners in case they are ever confronted with a similar situation.
Texas security firms are responding in kind, developing niche programs designed for use in churches. The programs employ police-like training tactics to turn volunteer church members into armed security teams, ready to respond to an attack on their place of worship. One church security specialist, Air Force veteran Jack Mills, designs equipment specifically for use in church security training courses. His equipment includes modified Glocks that are unable to accept live ammunition, and instead fire highly accurate laser shots at specially designed vests that receive the shot, and send a small, harmless electrical pulse to the wearer. Other Texas-based firms train preparedness by moving through church buildings and firing blank rounds, so that trainees learn what gunfire sounds like from outside of the sanctuary.
As religious communities grow concerned about violence targeted at churches and synagogues, and leaders are reevaluating their security, civilian training programs like the ones in Texas are popping up across the nation. The Lone Star State, however, has the advantage of relaxed restrictions when it comes to firearms in churches. Unless specifically prohibited, Texans are free to carry weapons into places of worship as long as they do so legally, with a license to carry. Additionally, in 2017, the state legislature voted to waive the fees and training requirements for church congregations desiring to form their own security teams, leaving members to develop their own task forces as they see fit.
Carl Chinn, president of the national Faith Based Security Network, says behind the surge in phone calls from churches seeking firearms training is a need for simple awareness.
“We were under some illusion that because we had a cross on the roof and a name over the door that we were somehow immune from these attacks,” Mr. Chinn told The Dallas Morning News.
It’s a frequently heard argument from the anti-gun crowd that weapons in the hands of untrained civillians could lead to a disaster. These programs are working to prove that civilians can be trained safely and quickly to respond to high-stress situations and protect their congregations. Not only do they train participants how to use a firearm in an active shooter situation, they also teach important, non-lethal tactics such as communication, threat assessment, and emergency lock-down.
Ashleigh Meyer is a professional writer and Conservative journalist from Bedford, Virginia.