Two weeks ago an armed man entered Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, and shot Dr. George Tiller. On March 8, a gunman walked into the sanctuary of First Baptist Church of Maryville, Illinois, and killed senior pastor Fred Winters. Last summer a man walked into a church in Knoxville, Tennessee, pulled a shotgun from his guitar case, and opened fire on a children's performance. Two people were killed.
The news reports are horrifying, but despite the wide publicity these crimes garner, there have been less than a dozen church shootings in the U.S. in the last decade. But that is little comfort for some church leaders who are seeking new security measures to protect their flocks
Pastor Ken Pagano from New Bethel Church in Kentucky is encouraging his parishioners to bring their guns to church for an "Open Carry Celebration" to celebrate the Fourth of July and the Second Amendment. "We're not ashamed to say that there was a strong belief in God and firearms," says Pagano. "Without that this country wouldn't be here."
Other churches are hiring armed security to patrol their property on Sunday mornings to create an atmosphere of safety. But there is an increasing number of churches using armed vigilantes–volunteers with nothing more than a concealed weapon permit–to deter any assailant. These people are the ecclesiastical equivalent of the air marshals who anonymously fly commercial airliners.
But are these security measures warranted? And are churches unknowingly creating more risk, not less, by encouraging members to carry concealed weapons?
Richard R. Hammer is an attorney and the editor of Church Law Today, a resource of Leadership Journal. In this video Hammer explains why armed vigilantes at church is a bad idea, and offers helpful suggestions for churches still concerned about safety.
What is your opinion about guns at church? Should we be encouraging members to exercise their Second Amendment rights as a way of deterring violence? And what about hired or volunteer security–is it a practical necessity in our fallen world or an overreaction? And does the presence of armed security give worshipers peace of mind, or will it only deter visitors seeking an oasis from the values of the world?