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House of Worship Security

If today’s uncertain environment has taught us anything it’s that there’s certainly no shortage of people who, not speaking to their motivation, have no compunction against opening fire on (presumably) unarmed people. While the most common scenario is for such an incident to occur at a public school, it is not unheard of that homicidal violence is unleashed on a church or other house of worship.

As these events have happened, some very smart people have unified under a common goal– preventing loss of life from active shooter events in public spaces.  You can check out the resources and events of the Faith Based Security Network here

No Simple Answers Allowed

To no rational person’s surprise, the answer is simply not adding “a good guy with a gun” to a space and calling it good.  It is certainly part of the solution, but it is not a solution in itself.  Various experts in the study of mass shooting events have offered some effective strategies and practices that can be used to both lessen the severity of an event and, better yet, prevent such an event from happening. 

Yes, events that don’t happen are hard to quantify and certainly don’t bring headlines. Their effect is simply in a tragedy not occuring at that location. Sadly, the real truth is likely, as it was revealed in the Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Tennessee earlier this year, the shooter HAD an alternate target in mind but due to that location’s security, she chose the weaker target and killed six victims before she was stopped. 

The point is not to wish such an event on any group of people but rather that all groups are better prepared to prevent a shooting to begin with. 

Knowing is Half the Battle, Competence is the Other Half

I cannot overstate how important it is to implement a COMPLETE security strategy in your publicly accessible building.  A house of worship needs to be open and welcoming– running people off is not the modus operandi of a church or synagogue. That being said, being able secure your campus from the parking lot to the altar requires knowledge of your attendees, the ability to read body language, awareness of local agitators, awareness of local crime trends– and this is all way before your team can address an action plan of how to deal with a disturbed person or an active shooter scenario. 

But once all the other facets have been dealt with, a church security team will need to exercise some practice in realistic scenarios. Yes, practical live fire shooting with that person’s firearm is essential to qualify a shooter’s capabilities, but stress inducing scenarios that require quick movement and rapid decision making are essential. This type of training cannot be done with a firearm. 

The Two-Way Range Hits Differently!

This is where T4E’s paintball pistols really shine.  No one is going to get maimed with a paint, dust, or rubber ball, but they will get instant confirmation of success or failure in deploying simulated lethal force.  The two-way range hits differently, so to speak.*  

This is the most crucial point to training with a marker. In the mental realm, we all have a plan, an idea how a certain situation will turn out.  There’s an old saying in military circles, “You don’t get the war you want, you get the war you get.” 

 Mike Tyson said it like this: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” 

A situation that requires the security team to clear leather is a situation that is already out of control. Does your security team have the skills and speed to engage and stop a threat before it gets worse? Can they bring things back into control? Training with T4E markers will give your security team an accurate measure of their capabilities and skills under pressure. 

Using a quantifiable performance based training procedure will give you a good idea how each member of the security team MAY perform in an actual event. As alluded to above, there are no guarantees when it comes to a fight, but some skills like draw time, target acquisition, accuracy, and movement can be used to set a baseline for performance should an event unfold. 

What is an Acceptable Number of Casualties for Your Organization?

To that end, there are two separate incidences that must be highlighted in this discussion.  These two incidents are considered success stories, but neither one was without a high cost in bystanders blood. 

The first was a church shooting in White Settlement, Texas at the West Freeway Church of Christ in late 2019.  From the time the shooter presented his threat to the congregation until it ended was about 6 seconds. In this time two members of the church security team were killed and a third member, Jack Wilson, was able to shoot across the sanctuary and end the threat. This was a successful resolution and still two victims perished. This incident is remarkable in how quickly it played out. I have seen the unedited, real time roll through of the incident.  6 seconds is not a lot of time. Mr. Wilson also exhibited excellent marksmanship with his shot putting an instant stop to the madman’s spree.

The second event transpired in about 15 seconds. This was not in a church, but a public building nonetheless.  On a July Sunday at Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood, Indiana, a shooter began his madness at the mall’s food court. In the time before he was engaged by armed citizen Elisjsha Dicken, the shooter killed three bystanders and injured two more. Mr. Dicken engaged the shooter from 40 Yards (120 feet).  Like the West Freeway shooting, the Greenwood Park Mall shooting’s duration was very short. However, the remarkable fact about this incident is that Mr. Dicken hit the shooter 8 of the 10 shots he fired from 120 feet away. 

 Both of these incidents underscore the point that accuracy under extreme stress is possible, but, sadly, loss of life can occur at an alarming rate. In both cases, people who were active in training and experience were able to do what was needed as quickly as they could.  

  You are only as good as the level of your training and shooting is a perishable skill. Moreover, a security team needs to work as a team and real life training that can be done with T4E markers is one way to work through the realities of mass shooting events.

 *Training with paint, dust, or rubber ammo and T4E markers needs to be done with personal protective gear such as face shields, gloves and a neck gaiter. Bruising will occur with hits, but as long as sensitive areas are properly protected, the risk for severe injury is minimized.  

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