U.S.A. — A stunning survey that revealed more than half of Protestant churches across the country rely on “armed congregants as part of their security plan” has just recently been reported by Lifeway Research, even though the poll was taken last September.
The revelation comes 3 ½ years after a gunman opened fire at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, only to be shot dead by armed parishioner Jack Wilson just a few seconds later. The shooting, which was live streamed at the time—the video warped across social media—shows at least a half-dozen armed citizens in the church sanctuary with drawn guns after Wilson fired the single shot that stopped killer Keith Thomas Kinnunen before he could wreak more havoc.
At the time, Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, ripped into anti-gunners.
“The gun control crowd has been predictably silent,” Gottlieb said following the December 2019 incident, “because the use of firearms by private citizens in defense of themselves and others—especially a large crowd of worshippers in a church—just doesn’t fit the extremist gun control narrative.”
He even had some blistering remarks for then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and fellow Democrats for their “deafening silence.”
However, Biden had been critical of Texas gun laws in September of that year, which earned the Delaware Democrat plenty of scorn from gun rights advocates, including Gottlieb. At the time, Biden contended the relaxed Texas gun law was “irrational.” The December shooting demonstrated otherwise as Wilson and other armed churchgoers were able to immediately react.
But the Lifeway Research report, now coming to light nearly nine months after it was conducted, has some other revelations that might elicit silence from the gun control crowd.
As noted by Fox News, “Approximately 81% of churches — or four in five pastors — said they have at least one security measure to prevent potential attacks.”
“Fifty-seven percent of pastors claimed to have ‘an intentional plan for an active shooter situation,’ which was the most popular option,” Fox News reported. “The second most-cited option had armed church members. Radio communications among security personnel and a no-firearms policy in church facilities were the next most popular security options, at 26% and 21%, respectively.”
The Lifeway Research report notes, “When asked about their protocols when they gather for worship, around 4 in 5 U.S. Protestant pastors (81%) say their church has some type of security measure in place.”
Fifty-seven percent have “an intentional plan for an active shooter situation.” They understandably do not provide specific details, but the mention of armed church members is significant.
The survey also revealed that security measures increase in churches with more worshippers in attendance. “The larger the church, the more likely it is to have armed private security personnel on site and radio communication among security personnel,” the Lifeway Research report acknowledged. “Churches with 250 or more in attendance are the most likely to have armed church members (74%) and uniformed police officers on site (27%). Those large congregations are also among the most likely to have an intentional plan for an active shooter situation (74%).”
Having armed security at a church is not such a new idea. Back in December 2007, following a fatal shooting at a mission in Arvada, 24-year-old Matthew John Murray showed up at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. He killed two sisters and wounded their father in the church parking lot before entering the building, where he was confronted by Jeanne Assam, who was part of that church’s security team. She opened fire, wounding Murray, who then took his own life.
According to the Lifeway Research report, approximately 1 in 5 pastors have a “no firearm” policy in their church, while almost the same number have armed private security. Only one percent apparently have metal detectors at church entrances.
An attack on the Covenant School in Nashville in March showed such shooting incidents are not confined to church sanctuaries. In that shooting, killer Audrey Hale entered the building by shooting her way through glass doors before fatally shooting three adults and three children. Nashville police responded immediately and, as shown by body cam video, entered the building, rushed to find the shooter, and brought the incident to a halt within four minutes.
The Nashville Tennessean is reporting that Hale, a transgender person, died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head and torso, according to an autopsy report issued Monday. She was hit in the torso and left arm, in the head, and in the right thigh.
CCRKBA’s Gottlieb praised the rapid response by Nashville officers in a prepared statement, in which he also criticized anti-gunners for opposing armed school security while pushing more laws to disarm law-abiding citizens.
“Those on the left do not want school resources officers on the job,” he said. “They argue for reducing police manpower overall while dangerous, violent people wait to prey on our most vulnerable citizens; school children and older Americans. And then they demand honest people give up their guns.
“The reason most Americans own firearms is to protect themselves against mentally unstable, violent people and evil, dangerous criminals,” Gottlieb said at the time.
The Lifeway Research report offers a reminder that armed private citizens continue to play a key role in what amounts to public safety, even in places of worship.
About Dave Workman
Dave Workman is a senior editor at TheGunMag.com and Liberty Park Press, author of multiple books on the Right to Keep & Bear Arms, and formerly an NRA-certified firearms instructor.