Wednesday, February 29

Armed Security in Churches

Note: The below article is written by one of my readers. Gary is a former LEO and is writing primarly from the background of small churches under 100 attendees. Gary illustrates many good points; however, is coming from a different prospective of some of my other contributors to this topic. What I think is important is that we hear the prospective of multiple qualified individuals prior to trying to decide what is best for your congregation. Please feel free to comment. Gary is more than willing to engage in conversation on these issues. 

Armed Security in Churches
By: Gary Martin

The recent accidental shooting and killing of a Florida pastor’s daughter at church has once again ignited the debate about whether or not guns belong in churches.  As a former law enforcement officer, my unequivocal answer is “yes, they do”.  When rare incidents such as this accidental shooting occur, it is important that we as a society keep things in perspective.  In today’s world, it is prudent for churches to take effective steps to protect their congregations from potential violence.  Incidents like this should not be used as an excuse to strip us of our rights to do so.

Churches are “soft targets” and can sometimes be tempting ones, especially to terrorists.  They are not immune from having violent people coming into them and shooting at the congregation or pastor.  Churches have been attacked many times in other countries by terrorists, and there have been several non-terrorist attacks on congregations here in the US as well. There is also the possibility that terrorists are making plans to hit several churches on American soil at the same time in a terror version of “shock and awe”.  While such a massive attack may never materialize, it might be prudent to at least consider it as a possibility, and develop appropriate, effective responses to deal with that contingency should it occur. For more information on this threat, see these links:

Many security experts, legislators and forward thinking pastors are calling attention to this possibility and are encouraging churches to be prepared to defend themselves. Here’s one example:

The one thing all church security experts agree on is that for any kind of security preparations, layered defenses are best.  Those layers can involve untrained CCW permit holders up to and including professional active duty law enforcement officers.  Most experts whose opinions I’ve read say that it is appropriate to have armed security guards to help minimize the damage caused by an active shooter before police can arrive.  The hard reality is that a well armed active shooter can cause considerable carnage before the police show up, even with nothing more than a few semi-automatic handguns.

Churches that are designated gun free zones are at much higher risk of large scale loss of life than those that have the option of armed responders who can react immediately.  Where many experts drop the ball, in my opinion, is their insistence that only active duty law enforcement serve on church security teams.  Many churches don’t have active duty police officers in attendance, don’t have enough of them, or can’t afford to hire them.  Even then, there is precedence for uniformed police officers doing special duty and private uniformed guards being the first ones killed in an attack.  The best defense against an active shooter is to quickly meet the attack with a strong deadly force response.  If the suspect has many responders to deal with he may quickly be overcome by the sheer difficulty of trying to mentally manage a highly dynamic situation like that, and of having to dodge a hail of bullets coming back at him. 

Here are some resource pools where armed church security guards could be drawn from in a congregation. They are listed in order from minimum to maximum protection.

  1. Members of the congregation with no prior law enforcement or military training who have concealed carry permits. In order for this group to be even minimally effective, the church needs to avoid being a gun free zone.  The effectiveness of these volunteers can be greatly enhanced by having them attend formal training for church security. There are many organizations that offer it. In addition to them being more effective tactically with training, they will also be better at making good decisions.  Training may also help to mitigate insurance company concerns.  If however, a church is unwilling or unable to organize formal training due to budget constraints or other reasons, their CCW permit carriers should still be allowed to carry concealed so that they have at least some hope of stopping an active shooter and minimizing the loss of life before law enforcement can arrive several minutes later.  This can be especially important during those times where there may be higher risk of terror incidents against churches.  This may be the only option available to many small churches.
  1. Current or past members of the military.  Some of them may have training similar to what law enforcement officers have. And the ones who don’t may still be well prepared mentally and tactically to respond well during a real active shooter incident. Like the first group, they would also have CCW permits, but would have a higher level of training.  It is likely that churches of all sizes could have members of this group in them.
  1. Members of the congregation with past law enforcement experience.  While their training may not be as current as active duty officers, and they won’t have the same legal immunities or arrest powers as active duty officers do, they have received training on how to handle armed confrontations. They may also have real world experience doing it from when they were active duty.
  1. Plain clothed, active duty police officers.  For any incident that does not involved the brandishing of a weapon, or an active shooter, it is probably best for all other responders to call them from wherever they are in the church at the time, and wait for them to arrive to handle the situation. They are the best option because they have current training, arrest powers, the legal right to detain and question, and have certain legal immunities that no civilian has.  However, they need to be in sufficient numbers, and in locations within the church and parking lots where they can quickly respond.

What I’m proposing is a layered approach where as many of these resource pools that are available are involved in the security for the church.  Who responds first would depend on the threat level.  If it’s just a suspicious person who hasn’t yet reached the point of active shooting or brandishing a weapon, the most highly trained responders should handle it.  However, if there is a sudden outbreak of active shooting, that in my opinion is an “all hands on deck” situation. Whoever is closest should respond immediately, and others should back him/her up as quickly as possible.

One obvious concern with this approach, though, is whether or not CCW permit responders who are not part of the formal security team could get mistaken for one of the bad guys. In my opinion, while it is possible that that could happen, odds are it won’t in most cases. I can’t base that belief on hard empirical evidence, because there have been so few church shootings where a CCW permit holder was allowed to be armed and was able to stop an attack.  What it comes down to is a judgment call as to which is more important: stopping the attack as quickly as possible to save lives or risking a more chaotic situation where the CCW permit holder could be placing himself at risk by being mistaken as a bad guy.  In my personal opinion, the greater risk is to allow the perpetrator to keep shooting at innocent, unarmed people until the formal security team member(s) can arrive.  I am also theorizing that there are likely to be dynamics that can work in favor to lower the risk to the CCW responder:

1.     Witnesses who observed the initial exchange of fire might know who is who.  They may quickly jump to the verbal defense of the CCW permit holder. My expectation is that if they saw him being threatened by the security team or law enforcement officers, they would be almost hysterical in their efforts to protect the good guy by pointing out who he is to other responders.  Security team members and law enforcement officers need to PAY ATTENTION and LOOK for indications like that before just opening fire on someone. They should not be so concerned about their own safety that they’re willing to sacrifice an innocent person’s life by jumping to conclusions when people are screaming at them to not harm a legitimate responder.

2.     The CCW permit holder would probably have the common sense not to fire at the security team, or anyone else who wasn’t firing at him.  The bad guy is the one who keeps firing no matter what. The good guys are the ones he would see showing some restraint as they challenged him to put his weapon down.  If the threat was over with, he would most likely comply with the request without hesitation.

3.     The perpetrator’s behavior, clothing and/or what he is saying could easily tip off responders that he’s the bad guy.  Is he wearing a long trench coat during warm weather to conceal his guns?  Is he screaming “Allah is great” while he’s firing?  Is he shooting at women and children or firing randomly at anyone? Is he firing his gun in a direction where there are no armed responders firing back at him? In contrast, the true responder would ONLY be aiming his gun and/or firing at another armed person who has already fired shots at innocent people, or who was threatening to do so.

4.     If someone on the security team witnessed the initial exchange from a distance, he may already know who is who and can pass that information along to other responders by the most expedient means possible.

When I was an LEO, I received no training whatsoever as to how to distinguish the good guy from the bad guy in active shooting situations, even though I served in a state that had concealed carry laws for decades.  It was just left up to each individual officer to use his best judgment and common sense.  I think this needs to be addressed in the form of more formal training.  If there is someone who is reading this blog who can assemble a list of indicators that responders can look for to distinguish good guys from bad guys when they’re not wearing any clearly distinguishable markings, please ask Brian for permission to publish that list.  However, if possible I would prefer that it be based on empirical evidence, not just speculation as I have engaged in above.

Tuesday, February 28

Guns in Church from an Elders Prospective

Note: I received the following comments from a colleague who is an elder at a Michigan church that is currently working through the matter of how to handle church security as it relates to concealed carry. He holds a concealed pistol license, is an avid shooter and is also a freelance writer for magazines that review and report on firearms and the shooting industry. As you read his comments, keep in mind that Michigan law requires a church's presiding officials to grant or deny permission for someone to carry concealed on church property.

Below are his thoughts related to guns in church:

"I actually haven't found many articles that address this topic. On the one hand, of course, the stories such as those found on are very helpful as are the NRA's Armed Citizen reports. And the principles of those encounters usually apply in church settings. On the other hand, the reason that there's not much to read about church settings is that the notion of carrying in church is quite new, and at a surface level,seems (but isn't) inconsistent with what most regard as basic Christian principle -- trusting God, loving others, "How could we allow guns in church?", etc.

It begs more detailed study and discussion, of course, and I think the theology and facts bear out that carrying guns in church does not actually violate any biblical principles of self-defense nor Christian love. In fact, it may be a wise course of action. All that to say: Part of what [people] are looking for is found at least in having some well-developed theology of self-defense and gun ownership and use. For an excellent introduction to that I recommend Wayne Grudem's lecture. See also the essay on self-defense in the resources at the back of the ESV Study Bible.

Moreover, a study of church security incidents would be helpful to help establish that violent situations do actually occur in churches (and your web site is very informative).


With those as a foundation, this process unfolds in my mind: it seems each church's leaders should be further challenged to think through physical security measures, irrespective of concealed carry weapons for security, ushers, or in the congregation. Church leaders should consider the principles that apply to handling any incident: What are their thoughts on the use of a pocketknife, kubotan, pepper spray, etc. as tools of self-defense? Continue that line of thinking -- and the tools that might be used -- all the way to the use of firearms (by trained, responsible people). Then consider what weapons are likely to be used by lawbreakers (firearms and other lethal tools). Unfounded biases (on the part of church leaders) against firearms will show themselves quickly as each kind of tool is considered and what level of security is considered appropriate. One test: If a church locks its doors at night then they obviously see some need for physical security. That kind of thinking needs to expand to handling incidents where the congregation is in the building and something goes down that is a threat to life.


Personally, I'm not against concealed carry in church but I prefer that is occurs within the context of an organized volunteer security force that is comprised of ushers and some key people planted in various parts of a sanctuary. This of course provides a context for ushers to train in how to handle an incident -- and at least some notion of who's carrying -- but also gives church leaders the opportunity to say "no" to some requests for carrying concealed weapons in church (e.g., Michigan law requires a church's presiding officials to grant or deny permission for someone to carry concealed on church property). With this, church leaders, who have so much on their plate already, have the luxury to be able to 1) simply delegate security to a small security force and 2) be able to say "no" to those who ask because of #1 -- they already have a security team in place who are armed, trained, etc. Moreover, there's a good kind of shepherding that the people of the church can benefit from when they hear from their leaders that the ushers are trained to handle general security measures. Of course I don't recommend publicizing that some may be carrying firearms; rather, congregations should know, as a general principle, that they are cared for on a multitude of levels when they're on church property.


The matter of experience and training is important but in my opinion there are civilians who practice and practice so well that they are actually more competent and careful than those who have military or police experience. My point is not to denigrate military and police training, which is valuable and can be a great asset -- especially when it comes to awareness. My point is to emphasize the need to train and practice, regardless of one's background. Every church building is different in layout and construction; every incident that goes down is probably different as well. So this matter of security is far more than just having a gun in the congregation. It's helpful at least; but it's far more than that. A coordinated usher/security team can (we hope) spot trouble before it occurs and act accordingly. Again, this is what church leaders need to consider when it comes to security.


Bottom line is that church leaders need to be informed on these issues and pressed to organize something when it comes to security -- as a matter of the faithful shepherding of their congregations. Leaders need to lead in this area. Likewise, however, church leaders need to realize that congregants with concealed weapons are not necessarily the best people to serve on security teams. Most church leaders don't know about or think about concealed carry laws or how it applies to their congregations, which can be different, state-to-state. They also don't know about all of the many resources that help in this area (your web site, church security conferences and webinars, etc.). So all of this must start with education and awareness of the church leaders. A congregant with an interest in church security must carefully and wisely introduce the idea to a church's leadership. Not: "I'd like to carry my gun in church" as the first thing he says but "I'm interested in helping out with ushering at church" and then discerning the level of efficacy the church leaders have toward security. From there he can bring in educational materials and resources to help make the points and gain interest in enacting thoughtful security measures in a church."

Monday, February 27

Guns!? In a Church? - Think About It Series

Note: This is installment #1 of a series of posts. Carl is writing from the perspective of a midsize to larger church. I encourage you to go to Carl's website and read about his story. Carl was involved with the Focus on the Family hostage situation in the 1990's and then most recently as a member of the security team at New Life Church in Colorado during the shooting at their church. As Carl likes to put it... "Lighting never strikes twice in the same spot, but you can be in two different places that lighting will strike" (I quoted that to the best of my memory)

Guns!? In a Church?
The debate over firearms in our country exists even within firearm owner circles. Some feel guns should not be allowed on a church security team at all, some feel it is fine to know they are in the audience and will be used if needed, and some feel only law enforcement trained individuals should carry in a church environment. I disagree with all those extremes.
When a ministry allows agents of protection to carry firearms, they are essentially making a statement that, “We are here for the hurting. But if we cannot help them and they become a threat, we are authorizing you to intervene with appropriate means up to and including the use of deadly force if needed.”
As harsh as this may sound, I agree with such a stand. But there are absolute pre-requisites in my opinion. Guns should be allowed on qualified members of a team only as long as;
1.      It is within a legal jurisdiction.
2.      The ministry leadership endorses it.
3.      There is a carefully planned training and qualifications program. It doesn’t have to be an expensive or even cost centered course – but if team members are armed, they should be practicing together and evaluating the environment together.
4.      It has been confirmed with the church insurance underwriter
5.      I urge every church to get an attorney to serve (as a team volunteer if possible) on security plan development. If the church has no attorney, this issue of armed defenders is too important to trust to chance. If you have an incident, you will be forced to have an attorney. That shouldn’t be the first time you meet – present this article to him or her for discussion as you develop your own policies.
Protection is needed in our houses of worship, and there are many cases where a firearm is the only protection capable of stopping an assault. In those cases, more people will die if the assault is not stopped.
The firearms debate may rage if your community discovers you use armed defenders in your ministry. Be certain you are ready to address a news conference if you make that decision. Ministries are responsible for the actions of their appointed representatives.
Use caution with ministry security team participation by any who are dogmatic about gun rights, martial arts, or similar issues. When it comes to determining the appropriate use of force in response to incidents, you do not want anyone with dogmas that could cloud their judgment. In addition to the obvious concerns regarding excessive force injury, there are other consequences.
If an incident occurs at a ministry where an appointed security individual was instrumental in mitigating a threat by using force, count on extreme scrutiny from media, attorneys for the offender, the general public and potentially even from the congregation. Whether it was justified or not, doesn’t change the fact that public examination can be expected following significant use of force. Segments of any size of community oppose firearms, any form of protective action and / or detest faith-based ministries. And there is a host of antagonists beyond your community ready to jump all over it if they can. Such folks may cause as much trouble as possible; with all the media momentum they can muster to discredit the ministry after such an incident. For the same reasons law enforcement agencies steer away from radical employees, so should ministries.
For example, let’s say a person is outspoken on the right to defend ourselves with firearms and has been active and zealous in 2nd amendment rights protection. Perhaps they have written letters to the local editor, staged protests against gun restriction legislation, or in similar ways expressed bold passion in support of such issues.
Such zeal is sufficient cause for pause in considering them to represent a ministry in protective actions. They have left a trail of published and / or witnessed fuel for litigation. If an attack was stopped with the use of deadly force by the character referred to in this example, the liability risk for the ministry is exponentially higher.
Of course armed defenders with military, law enforcement or security credentialed experience are excellent considerations for the carrying members of a security team. Be careful however of considering only people from these backgrounds. Conversations about credentials are often driven by pride, competition or exclusivity. If there are those who feel called to serve in this capacity, don’t rule them out just because of a lack of related employment history or credentials. While they should meet moral qualifications and exhibit relative aptitude, the best team members may have never operated in an official security or uniformed protection capacity before.
It is wrong for uniformed professionals to advocate they are the only ones qualified to carry a firearm for protection of others. It is true that some can be entrusted with carrying a firearm in a protective manner, while others cannot. However, many of those ready to become trained defenders have no law enforcement credentials. While it is often best to draw from credentialed pools for armed defenders, remember that decisions of whether to call the qualified or qualify the called are over our pay-scale.
There is a grey line of distinction between an intentional team and CCW members in the congregation. CCW members that are not part of an intentional team are a reality for any team to be aware of – they are out there. In some states the conceal carry laws exclude the ability to carry a firearm in a place of worship. In states where it is legal (and realistically even in those where it isn’t) the truth of the matter is that there will always be a certain number of congregants in the audience who will be carrying deadly force. To just know that and quietly rely on them to “spring to action if needed” is as reckless as burying our head in the sand denying that they are in our congregation.
I am certainly not opposed to the freedom to carry. I am against posting signs declaring a gun-free zone. If anyone obeys it, it sure won’t be the bad guys with guns. But good guys with guns are a reality every team needs to be aware of. There is a sliding scale of realism to understand with this subject which is directly related to the size of church. In a church of 20 congregants, those CCW members may be “the team”. If so they know each other and should train together. If the church has 20,000 in the worship service with an intentional team that has trained together there may be some unknown CCW holders eager to get involved if a scenario goes down.
It is best to have a designated team authorized and trained to be armed defenders if your laws allow such. When the aggressor comes to your organization, those trained individuals will manage the attack until they can effectively transition the incident to responding law enforcement agencies. If you don’t have the trained and equipped members, you may have off-duty plain-clothes officers who do not know each other, mixed with untrained defenders, all shooting at bad people, each other, and innocent bystanders with panicking crowds diving to avoid the skirmish. And the reality remains, that even with trained operators some of those people may come into the mix. Talk about how your team might handle that scenario.
In a live fire situation, there is plenty of confusion to go around even among team members who know each other and have trained together. I don’t care if the crowd is 20 or 20,000, there will be some measure of chaos. I have been a hunter all my life -- I don’t even hunt with people whom I know little about – I hunt with people I trust around a firearm. It is that much more important to have a team who has trained together be responsible when an incident is occurring. Untrained zealots or unknown and non-uniformed professionals joining the mix is more likely to happen the larger the church. But as much as is realistic, your congregation should know that there is a designated and specific team of defenders should an incident occur.
In just about every major shooting, the possibility of multiple shooters must quickly be considered. At the shooting at New Life Church in 2007, the report of a second shooter was developing even as the shooter was entering the building.
Within seconds of hearing that there may be a second shooter, and while taking a position of readiness for the gun battle, I had a total stranger show up behind me yelling in anger. After quickly checking his hands for a weapon (due to the second shooter alert), I told him he needed to get behind me and out of the building. I simply had to make a judgment call he was not the second shooter quickly based upon his demeanor and apparent lack of a weapon.
I use my experience to emphasize the value of having trained armed defenders who know each other and are working as a team, but being ready for those who throw themselves into the mix. Had New Life not had a functioning team that day, the responses to the gunman would have been left to a loose knit group of responders who could have potentially increased injury as they were dealing with the threat. I had a front row seat to the chaos potential.
I hope your authorized armed defenders will never need to reveal their firearm. It is truly the very last option, and even if drawn it should be their primary hope that they can hold the aggressor at bay until law enforcement arrives, guide those tactical first responders into effective positions, and quickly turn the situation over to them. However, if the speed of the attack is moving too fast to allow for any of this, there may only be one realistic way to resolve it – and the bigger the caliber the better (another front row seat observation I had on the day of our shooting).
Think About It…
Ø  Tunnel vision works for both victims and attackers. If an active shooter comes into your crowd, and sees you coming towards him with a firearm as other innocent people are fleeing, you have captured his attention and aim. That is the first moment of intervention and protection, even if there is no shooting at that moment.

Ø  Protection of the offering (theft) is not an appropriate use of deadly force. Make sure any on the team who carry understand use of force is only applied when loss of life of others appears certain.

Ø  Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (the Columbine School shooters) intentionally used solid jacketed bullets for maximum carnage. They purposely wanted each bullet to continue as far as it could inflicting a far reaching field of injury. One of the trainings your team should do is that of discussing bullet types to carry. Maximum stopping power with minimum ricochet and wall penetration (exactly the opposite of the Harris / Klebold model) should be a priority.

Ø  Drill on recognizing elements of the deadly triangle (opportunity, intention, and capacity) as team preparation for using deadly force. In order to be considered as a justifiable evaluation that loss of innocent life is certain, the attacker must clearly exhibit the opportunity, intention and capacity (all at once) to kill victims. Drill on active scenarios of 2 but not all 3 elements.

Ø  Consider Verbal Judo, other official de-escalation techniques and non-lethal weapons as a higher training priority than firearms training. Ask your local law enforcement where such training is available in your area. Find free web-based options to conduct your own training. Some violent crimes can be avoided with such tactics, others cannot. If an incident goes down, you want to exhibit that you have emphasized less than lethal response training, leaving deadly force intervention as a last resort.

Ø  You need to be certain of your own rules of engagement, preferably detailed in a clearly understood response continuum. If a situation goes down, whoever used a firearm to stop the attack will be whisked away by investigators soon after (if they are still alive). Count on them being grilled on the rules – they better know them off the top of their head. They won’t get time for a refresher course on the way to the station. Include that potential ride and interview as part of your team training. How much is your defender going to hold to the “I can’t speak until my attorney is present” model? It is a good model, as long as it is within reason. To clam up and not say anything if there are still active bad guys on the scene would be irresponsible. Be reasonable with sharing known information that could benefit the safety of responding officers or congregants still in harm’s way. Aside from that, get that attorney who helps your team in there with you.

Ø  Like federal agents or plain-clothes officers, church security operators rarely wear uniforms. So like those plain-clothes first responders, they need some kind of identification that can be quickly deployed when a peaceful environment deteriorates rapidly into a violent crime scene. Please consider having all of your weapons-toting security operators carry a safety banner that can be deployed as an incident is going down, or immediately after (when most “blue on blue shootings” happen). Based on some hairy momentsafter our shooting experience, I now do not carry a weapon unless I have my DSM (“Don’t Shoot Me”) banner on my hip. Designed by a veteran SWAT officer, check them out at

Ø  Of over 336,000 congregations in the U.S., nearly 60% of them have fewer than 99 people in their membership. The vast majority of these do not have the budget to hire extra-duty officers, nor are there any law-enforcement members in their pews on any given Sunday. Even if there are, many law enforcement agencies forbid off-duty officers from volunteering in security roles. There is nothing wrong with having non-law enforcement trained and ready to protect and allowing them to be ready with the proper tools. The smaller the church, the easier the training can be, but there must be some level of training if you are serious about protection.

Ø  Any business gears up with the proper amounts of staff at busier times. Movie theaters have more staff on hand on Friday and Saturday evening than any other time of the week. Electric utilities have more people in the middle of a hot day, and law enforcement has more officers on duty on Friday and Saturday night than any other time. Agencies typically have fewer officers on duty on Sunday morning than any other time of the week. So if you choose to “just let law enforcement deal with any threats”, your standard wait of 8 minutes might be longer if the wolf comes on Sunday morning.

Ø  There are some states now extending the “make my day law” beyond the home to commercial environments and even churches. The latest of these is Oklahoma who in recent days assigned House Bill 2988 to the House Judiciary Committee. It is well on the way to becoming a law which will expand the legal authority of churches to protect themselves in violent situations.

Ø  In states where it is not legal for citizens to carry a firearm in church, there are often laws allowing properly qualified security professionals to do so. TheChristian Security Institute is a good option for training volunteers to become state level certified armed defenders in states where such certification is needed. Contact them at (972) 712-8818 to see if they offer training in your state. Even if your state doesn’t require licensed armed defenders, it is good due diligence to bring these professionals in to train your team if your church can budget for it.

Sunday, February 26

TSA Top 10 Good Catches of 2011

Note: I came across this list today and found some of these finds pretty interesting. Thought that many of you would enjoy reading them... (The comments are not mine, they are from TSA. I decided to leave them for humor)

From: TSA Blog

TSA Top 10 Good Catches of 2011
10) Snakes, turtles, and birds were found at Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX). I’m just happy there weren’t any lions, tigers, and bears…
9) A science project shut down a checkpoint at Omaha (OMA). I wonder if mentioning the shutting down of the checkpoint added enough flare to his presentation to score him some bonus points?

8) An artfully concealed non-metallic martial arts weapon called a “Tactical Spike” was found in the sock of a passenger at Pensacola (PNS) after being screened by a body scanner. The only thing I keep in my sock is my foot.

7) Inert landmines were found at Salt Lake City (SLC). I always travel with mine, don’t you???

6) A stun gun disguised as a smart phone was found at Los Angeles (LAX). Not very smart to travel with this stunning device.

5) A flare gun with seven flares was found in a passenger’s carry-on bag at Norfolk (ORF). Hmmm… pressurized cabin + 7 live flares = no good can come from this.

4) Two throwing knives concealed in hollowed out book were found at Washington National (DCA). Killer book…

3) Over 1,200 firearms were discovered at TSA checkpoints across the nation in 2011. Many guns are found loaded with rounds in the chamber. Most passengers simply state they forgot they had a gun in their bag.

2) A loaded .380 pistol was found strapped to passenger’s ankle with the body scanner at Detroit (DTW). You guessed it, he forgot it was there…

1) Small chunks of C4 explosives were found in passenger’s checked luggage in Yuma (YUM). Believe it or not, he was brining it home to show his family.

Saturday, February 25

Questions and Answers Related to Church Security

Over the next week, I plan on posting multiple pieces of information from different sources that will address parts of the below concerns. I recently had a reader write in to me asking the below questions.

Please keep in mind that we will not always agree with the other persons opinions. Even within the professional security community we have different ways of doing things! What we can do is learn from others experiences and thoughts. 

I encourage you to comment on the below information and upcoming posts. If you disagree with a point of view, please explain how you would do things differently rather than just comment on the other person being wrong. Happy reading :-)

You can always email me directly at

Below is a portion of an email that I received:

"I'm most interested in how to respond to an active shooter, especially a terrorist who is bent on maximum casualties. While classes on other security issues are helpful, this is what I'm most interested in seeing for lay person CCW permit holders."

1. A recommendation on particular programs that includes at least some basic tactical firearms training for church environments.

2. Class should also include discussion of legal and insurance issues.

3. A discussion of ammunition choices. (Example: Frangible to avoid ricochet and over penetration problems)

4. How to respond to a shooter who may be wearing body armor, and how to know he may be wearing it.

5. The earliest possible detection of a possible shooter and how to rapidly make other members of the security team aware of it.

6. How to prevent being mistaken as a bad guy and being shot by the police when they arrive on the scene.

7. What to do in the aftermath, esp. about the shooter himself (is he really down, should you approach him, etc.)

8. Watching out for multiple shooters, including ones who may be waiting outside for people who try to escape out doors.

9. Anything else you think may be relevant.

Friday, February 24

Giving More Than Intended

Note: I received this article last week and was asked to pass it on the the readers of I hope you find it helpful! As always, please leave your comments and share your thoughts and opinions. 

Ten Steps to Protect  Faith Staff and Volunteers while Providing Charity Services
By: Johnny Lee, President of ePanicButton and Director of Peace@Work

In October 2007, in a small city in eastern North Carolina, two women were stabbed at the Lakeside Baptist Church by a man whom they were trying to help.  Program Director Debbie Kornegay and Asst Director Eve Beasley were preparing food for the Meals on Wheels program when a drifter, Tommy Lee Holiday, somehow obtained access to the women in the Fellowship kitchen. According to Kornegay’s daughter who was contacted as they were looking for a shelter, he asked them for help in finding a place for the night.  At some point, Holiday fatally stabbed Kornegay and critically injured Beasley in the course of robbing them. He then fled the scene only to be apprehended in a park and later convicted of the crime.

This tragedy highlights a unique risk that many faith communities are exposed to as a common mission is to provide charitable services directly to those in need. Soup kitchens, food pantries, clothing programs and other humanitarian services put faith member in contact with the public often with few security considerations.

The risks can be clearly identified. By nature of the charity, the population served are often in dire straits and extreme poverty and hunger can lead to desperate acts.  Greater complications arise with the frequent issue of substance abuse and mental health problems which volunteers are rarely trained to manage.  Charity-inclined volunteers, particularly the young and elderly, may be more vulnerable to perpetrators who are skilled in taking advantage of compassionate or generous attitudes. Higher risks are involved when providing services locally, often in high-crime areas.  The worst part of these risk factors is that they are certainly going to be on the increase. The continued challenges of the economy will  exasperate those already in need while also augmenting the overall numbers requesting help.

Prevention measures can limit exposure and be established through a series of administrative and behavioral controls. The following ideas are simply considerations that can be included in a formal, risk assessment and security development process.

~Set firm policies and standards for program delivery. Provide the service only at designated time frames and location.  Prohibit providing services to those who just show up asking for help.

~Set the environment for program delivery with safety in mind.  Remove high value items from view.  Designate public restrooms. Maintain access control to the facility and clearly identify client area and staff/volunteer only areas. Prohibit taking clients to the back or storage room to find items or services. 

~Develop boundary-setting guidelines that ban or suspend services to offenders who violate policy or act inappropriately.  Inform them of expected conduct and follow through with consequences. Banning individuals may not only remove a problem client but establishes the reputation of program for no-nonsense behavior.

~Always work in larger numbers or at least pairs.  Adequate staffing of events or programs is critical to maintaining safety as isolated and lone workers much more likely to be assaulted.

~Discourage or prohibit personal giving to clients. Often, program members or volunteers will develop a “special interest” in a client or family and provide services, materials and even money to them directly.  A frequent scenario is a volunteer offering a handy-man project or yard cleaning job to a client in need. Discourage contact outside of the program delivery parameters. 

~Train staff and volunteers in recognizing warning signs, defusing hostile behavior and setting boundaries for any inappropriate behavior.  Aggressors are often calculated in their approach and will test targets on what behavior they can try.  If impractical to teach everyone, train a few responsible members to monitor for developing situations and provide intervention support. Consider contracting professional security, off-duty officers or work with law enforcement to have booth or table at any community events.

~With respect to crowd control, if it is anticipated to have a large turn out, limit the number of clients in the program delivery area and/or set caps on services. A difficult encounter can ensure if supplies run out and crowd expectations exceed capacity.

~Consider some application process for in-depth services to be rendered. By obtaining the contact information of the individuals, a record is made which will support further investigation if required. Even background checks can be considered (seek your legal consul for guidance). {Background Information Here}

~Outreach programs providing services in the client community should be conducted in a safe location, provided by teams that arrive and leave together and done in conjunction with local representatives from the visited communities and/or law enforcement. Just as important is timing of services with evenings or Friday afternoons being more volatile.

~Finally, trust instincts. But if there is a sense of danger, a bad feeling about a location, person or exchange, encourage volunteers to listen to their gut and act accordingly.

The spirit of giving and charity should be honored and fostered.  In truth, the vast majority of recipients are not a danger and are truly appreciative. While the need to give back can always be met through fund raisers, the appeal of giving directly will lead to such programs being offered. This service can be a true expression of generosity for those less fortunate but at the same time, the security, safety and well-being for everyone should never be compromised.

Johnny Lee, President of ePanicButton and Director of Peace@Work

Please join us March 15th, 2012 at 3:30 pm EST for a free, online webinar on Maintaining Security in Faith Institutions with Dave Benson of the Center for Personal Protection and Safety. Info -

Thursday, February 23

Boy Found Dead in Baptismal at Church


{Indianapolis police are investigating the death of a 1-year-old boy Wednesday after they were told that he was found submerged in a baptismal pool at a church on Indianapolis' Northwestside.}

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My Thoughts: This is the first time I recall seeing a story like this. It begs the questions... Accident or Not? Regardless, it should encourage us all to think about our baptismals and the safety precautions that are in place around them. Some churches have large baptismals similar to a hot tub or swimming pool, while other denominations simply have a large bowl for a sprinkling. 

If you have a large baptismal...

Do you keep water in your baptismal when not in use?
Is your baptismal open or closed when not in use?
Is there a way to lock the lid of the baptismal?
Is the area monitored by CCTV?

Wednesday, February 22

TigerLight Full Information Video

I have received multiple emails over the last few months informing me that my links to the TigerLight products were down. TigerLight has now reworked their online system and is back up and running. Please note: They are still working on a few link problems; however, you are now able to order and view all their products. Below is a YouTube infomercial on the product...

Click to Order TigerLight

Tuesday, February 21

Pastor Who Was Shot in Church Dies


{LAKELAND | The Rev. Carl Stewart died Thursday at his home, five months after he was shot during a service at the Greater Faith Christian Center Church, officials said Monday...

During a Sunday morning prayer service on Sept. 18, Jeremiah Fogle, 57, of Lakeland, walked into the West Lakeland church and opened fire, deputies said.

Stewart and the church's chief pastor, the Rev. ­William Boss, were wounded. Fogle aimed the handgun at another minister, Derrick Foster, who disarmed him, deputies said.}

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Monday, February 20

"Dear Pastor" - Think About It Series

Note: If you are looking for scriptural references for your church security team or ministry, Carl has done a great job in compiling a list and giving us his thoughts on the topic. 

Reposted with permission from

Dear Pastor,
We know you may not understand those of us who watch for degeneracy where you naturally look for redemption. And because we want you to keep doing what you do, we don’t ask for you to become a security operator – we only ask that you take a moment to understand where we are coming from.
We know there is a prevailing culture in faith-based organizations that indicates we are in God’s hands of protection. We agree with that, but feel responsibility for active participation on our part for effective security. We know you like scriptural references for all church-related decisions and actions. We offer samples from both Old and New Testament with comments at the end;
Nehemiah 4:8-9, 13-18: They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
(13-18) Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.  After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”  When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work. From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did theirwork with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.
I Chronicles 11:24-26:  Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors. He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard. (See also II Samuel 23:22-24).
Matthew 2:12-15:  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.
Acts 17:10 & 15:  (10) As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue…… (15)Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.
I Corinthians 13:6-7: Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Think About It…
Ø  Nehemiah 4:8-9, 13-18: Please take a moment to look up Col. Dave Grossman’s narrative entitled,  On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs. It will help you understand Nehemiah better.  We too are sheepdogs and we are different – we get that. By understanding Nehemiah better, you will understand our heart of protection better.

Ø  I Chronicles 11:24-26:  So David had a body guard? No wait, he had an entire body guard team! This was the same David who said in Psalms 32:7 that, “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.” David made similar professions of his faith in God’s protection all through the Psalms (5:11, 12:5, 12:7, 20:1, 25:21, 34:19-22, 40:11, 31:1-3), but he still appointed real warriors with real bloodstains on their swords to be his bodyguard. This is no more of a conflict than Jesus telling his men to get swords (Luke 22:36) then correcting the situation when Peter used it at the wrong time (Luke 22:51). David recognized what we are asking you to understand about us. Our protection does come from God, just as our food, income and shelter do. But like our food, income and shelter (read Matthew 6:25-31) – He expects a little participation from us in the process of acquiring and managing that protection. We all believe Matthew 6:25-31, but we all shop for food and clothing and make sure we keep hydrated. We trust Him for the provision, but recognize we have responsibility in the process. Safety and security is the same way. We trust Him ultimately, but recognize our responsibility in the process.

Ø  Matthew 2:12-15:  Wow – speaking of God’s protection, don’t you think He could have protected the infant Jesus? Is it even possible that Herod could have killed the infant JesusThere were angels all around. In fact it was an angel that told them what to do. Couldn’t they have made it there in time to intervene? While leaving the theological message to you, we recognize that God told the parents to take evasive action for the protection of that baby, the parents took their responsibility of protection serious, and Herod did notmake good on his plans to kill Jesus.

Ø  Acts 17:10 – 15:  In this glimpse into the dynamic developing church we not only see Paul & Silas protected by intentional strategy (moving them in the night), but we also see there was an executive protection detail (escorts). These escorts weren’t angels, they were men assigned for protection. But isn’t this just one chapter after reading of an earthquake and God’s mighty hand delivering them from prison? Did they lose faith that soon after that Devine intervention? I think not – like so many before, they too recognized the balance of the substance of things hoped for (Faith) and the benefits of active vigilance (Intentional Security).

Ø  I Corinthians 13:4-7: This passage is our first policy manual suggestion. It describes the behavior we will always operate by as a security team.  We do not delight in evil and hope we never come across it. But chances are we will, and when that happens we will always protect. In the meantime, we will also deal with all the lesser distractions, concerns and hazards common to any gathering of people.

Ø  Pastors, Priests and church leaders, we know you feel sincere concern for our parishioners and staff. Even if you do not agree with this plea to implement intentional safety and security at our organization, we would never insinuate the safety and security of your church family is unimportant to you – we know it is. But we do hope you will recognize this request. We are sheepdogs – we won’t eat the sheep, we love the sheep. And we don’t want to run the ministry – we love to watch our leadership work. We just need to know that we are empowered by you to intercept when that occasional wolf comes prowling around. Most of the time we will be romping around making friends of anyone we can as we all work together towards the primary purpose of this ministry.

Ø  While you are reading on this subject, a few other scriptures you may wish to consider are; Esther 8:11, II Kings 11, 17-19, Proverbs 22:3, Matthew 10:17, II Timothy 4:14-18. See what comments you may make yourself as you consider the security of this church family in light of these things.

Will you endorse us to establish and / or strengthen intentional safety and