Church Security After Texas Shooting

This morning, people across the country have a mix of sadness and anger after the senseless mass murder at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.

Sadness at the loss of life.

And anger that the shooter was able to hurt and kill as many people as he did before someone stopped him.

I’m asking the 2 questions I ask after every mass murder…

  1. What can I do to keep it from happening when I’m around? How do I stop violence before it starts, and how do I stop a murderer before they become a mass murderer?
  2. What can I do to help others do the same.

I’m going to get to some specific things you can do for church security in a second, but first…

There’s a TON of misinformation being spread by news outlets about the shooting with the intent of manipulating public opinion.  It’s sick.  But because of that, you’re going to have the opportunity to get into conversations about gun control over the next few hours/days.  Here are some things to keep in mind.

There are over 20,000 firearms laws & regulations on the books right now.  No law ever has or will stop a murderer.

I don’t know the specific additional local laws that the murdering psychopath broke, but here are some that I know he broke.

  1. Brandishing a firearm is illegal.
  2. Discharging a firearm inside of city limits is illegal in almost all incorporated areas.
  3. Assault is illegal
  4. Shooting with intent to kill is illegal
  5. Use of a firearm in the commission of a felony is illegal
  6. Aggravated malicious wounding is illegal
  7. Terroristic threats are illegal.
  8. 1st degree, pre-meditated murder is illegal.
  9. In most places, it’s illegal to have a round chambered in a rifle/shotgun in a vehicle.

It doesn’t matter whether or not he bought the gun legally or illegally. It doesn’t matter whether it was a gun free zone or not a gun free zone. It doesn’t even matter whether guns are legally available or not.

Murdering psychopaths don’t care about laws, they don’t care whether they break 1 law or 100 laws, and the absence of having a firearm isn’t going to suddenly make them sane.  If they don’t have a gun, history has shown us that they’ll use knives, sticks, bombs, potato guns, or, a rock like Cain used on Abel.

To be more blunt, gun violence is a myth. It doesn’t exist. Guns are inanimate objects. There is only violence and violence is a product of the mind and the mind will use whatever tools it has available at the time. The term “gun violence” makes about as much sense as “fork overeating.”

Case in point—a couple of weeks ago, on the 20th of October, there were 2 bombings at mosques in Afghanistan…mosques that weren’t “ISIS” enough.  One killed 56 and wounded 55, the other killed 33 and injured 10.  100,000 gun laws wouldn’t have stopped these bombings and a complete ban of firearms won’t ever stop murdering psychopaths from killing people.

For those of you who have been following us for years, I don’t want to re-cover what you already know, but for those of you who are new, you might want to read this article from awhile back: http://tacticsandpreparedness.com/countering-the-myths-of-gun-violence/

It covers several INCREDIBLE facts about violence that few people know, including the fact that the #1, #2, #3, and #4 most deadly school mass murders didn’t happen in the US. More than 380 innocent people, including 186 children, were killed in the worst one…yet few people know about it and it’s completely ignored by the media. It also talks about what REALLY happened when gun bans were enacted in Canada, England, and Australia.

So, if more gun laws aren’t the answer, what is the answer?

The answer is going to be the same for you as it was in Sutherland Springs:

  1. Awareness
  2. Blunt force trauma

Fortunately, in Sutherland Springs, a neighbor was made aware of the situation and responded with a gun and shot and stopped the shooter.  I’ve heard 2 stories…one that he heard shots, and the other that he got a call.  Either way, the murderer kept going until he was stopped by blunt force resistance.

Since the shooting was at a church, I’m going to talk in the context of a church situation, but the principles will work in an office or many other places where you may find yourself.

Let’s cover awareness really quick…

One of the things that I cover in the Tactical Vision Training course is how to easily expand your peripheral awareness.

The sooner you can be aware of a potential threat, the sooner you can positively identify it and take effective action.

There are tried and true methods of expanding your peripheral awareness that can DOUBLE your effective cone of awareness with minimal effort.  Here’s how this can play out.

We attend a church that has about 300 people per service.

Over time, I’ve figured out how to be aware of movement out to about 180 degrees, even in reduced lighting, and identify a high percentage of attendees by gait alone.

In addition, I’ve trained my brain to look for cues as to the person’s sex, age, injuries, AND INTENT out to about 180 degrees.  It’s not scientific, but people walk differently based on their intent.  People getting up to go to the bathroom move differently than people who NEED to go to the bathroom.  People move differently when they’re angry than when they’re happy.

What this means is that you can keep your head and eyes pointed forward and still have awareness of people moving off to your side.  You can remain more in the moment, but not have blinders on.

If you see something “off” you can shift your eyes, leaving your head still so you don’t distract people or call attention to yourself.  If it’s REALLY off, you can shift your head and determine an appropriate response.

This is not only helpful in church, but when shopping at a big box store, at a movie theater, at a sporting event, eating at a restaurant, or reading at a coffee shop.

Do you need to go to the extreme of being able to identify dozens of people in reduced lighting by gait alone in a 180 degree cone?  LOL…no.  But the same simple drills from Tactical Vision Training that can help you get to that extreme will also help you be WAY more aware of your environment with minimal effort.  In short, awareness of threats is the foundation of any effective response, regardless of whether it’s running away, using empty hands skills, or weapons.

On to blunt force trauma…

First off, know your environment.  Where are fire extinguishers that you could spray as a distraction and then use as an impact weapon?

If your church has chairs, could you grab one and run with it in front of you as a weapon?  If they are connected to each other, how are they connected?  Can you remove the right-most chair?  The left-most chair?

Many churches have candle stands or other items that could be used as an improvised pike, lance, or staff.

Tools that you carry, like a gun, Taser, pepper spray, or flashlight are great, but always be on the lookout for improvised weapons.

Second, know your peeps.  The transient nature of most churches makes high level security training difficult.  But do what you can to spot other switched on people at your church.  Talk about plans.  Run through scenarios.  To the extent that you can, test their validity.  Would you have a plan to turn off the lights for a 5 count so that someone on your team could close distance?  (Or would that be a horrible option in your situation?)  Pre-determine choke points, the best shooting positions, cover, concealment, backstops, etc.

Third, know your numbers.  Most church violence happens during the week, between the church and the parking lot.  That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prepare for violence during services—I believe you should—it just means that it’s incredibly unlikely.

Fourth, you need to know your limits…and expand them.  In a church or other crowded venue, a firearm may be the best option, or it may be a horrible option.  At what distance can you hit fast 4” headshots?

Do you have the presence of mind to be aware of your surroundings and what’s beyond your target in a stressful situation?  Can you move and shoot and actually hit your target?  At what distance?

Once you know your limits, stretch them.  Drawing from concealment and making consistent head shots at 20-30 feet in under 2 seconds is a great goal to work for and you can master the skill with dry fire at home.  You may never be that fast, or you may be faster…what’s important is to have a realistic understanding of your ability and let that drive your tactics.

As an example…your speed and ability will drive your decision on whether to shoot first or find cover first.  If a murderer is facing away from you, you may shoot first.  If they’re facing you, you may rush them, knowing that it’s faster than drawing, or you may go to cover before drawing.

Can’t make 4” headshots?  How about shooting the bad guy in the vest?  Pelvis?  Thighs?  If you’re looking for one-shot-stops, these probably aren’t the answer, but a solid hit to soft body armor from a pistol will HURT the person wearing it.  It may break a rib.  It will usually cause a psychological “reset” of 1-3 seconds where they stop shooting.  This could allow you to continue shooting them in the vest, close distance, move up to the head or down to the pelvis.

All of these shooting skills are things that you can easily and affordably practice at home.  In fact, it’s way more effective and efficient to do the majority of this training at home as opposed to doing it with live fire at a range.

And if you’re serious about being able to protect yourself, loved ones, or innocent people with a firearm, one of the best training options you’ve got is the 21 Day Alpha Shooter program.  It’s dirt cheap, takes very little time, and will quickly and dramatically improve your performance with a defensive pistol.

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Questions?  Comments?  Other thoughts and suggestions?  Please share by commenting below:

 

 

 

 

13 Comments

  • Radall Wood

    Reply Reply November 6, 2017

    Great article. I always strive to take control of any space upon entering. It’s easy to do and no one will notice. Always be aware of exits, choke or hold points and people.

  • James Stamulis

    Reply Reply November 6, 2017

    I wish every Christian church would have several people equivalent to air marshal’s in church who are strategically located in and or outside the church which would have either stopped this in it’s tracks or at least minimized the damage done. Unfortunately this is the world we live in today for when i was child this kind of thing just did not seem to happen in the USA. Thoughts and prayers to all the victims, family and friends.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply November 6, 2017

      Fortunately, most do. In the absence of a formal team, ad hoc security forms because it’s just how some of us are wired. We spot each other because we’ve identified the most tactically advantageous positions in the church and look for the people who habitually sit there.

      Concealed carry in Texas just became legal a couple of years ago. It wasn’t legal when I lived there, but I and several other people that I knew still carried with the unwritten approval of the church. To be clear, it wasn’t legal or official, but the church wasn’t going to prosecute us for trespassing.

    • Bill Thorne

      Reply Reply November 7, 2017

      I have enjoyed reading the article; I found many truths and certainly practices by which I live. I also know that they have been tried and proven to work.

      I travel often and when worshiping at Churches where I am not known and I don’t know the parishioners, and they don’t know me, I tend to function at a high level of awareness. I will quickly determine the possible points of entry and exits from the building. I will observe the mannerisms of the people present, and yes there are certain things that will cause my “Alert Button” to be pushed. You can also tell when someone enters the Sanctuary that is either not known to those present, or the person is known and is causing a great deal of uneasiness among those present.

      I have also learned how to determine who is a part of the internal security team; they are generally, members of the local or nearby Constabulary. These people are citizens and members of our communities and have a right to go and worship without being asked to participate in the security of the church where they come to worship. No. That’s not being selfish, it’s just a matter of trying to hold on to their ability to peaceably sit and share in the Word.

      There are diocesan regulations/edicts from Presiding Bishops, that prohibit the presence of Firearms of any type on their properties.

      At home, I attend one of two churches and I am aware of Law Enforcement personnel who are members of the church and regularly attend services, as their schedule will permit; the argument goes on: What to do, come to church without my weapon, or follow the protocols of my employer and carry 24/7 (on or off the job)? Why would I live my weapon in my automobile, when incidents of stolen cars are up across the country? What is the rationale for having a weapon with me when I leave home and when I reach the church, I leave it in my car; what happens if I come out church and find a person whom I have arrested for murder, but is out on bail and standing in front of me with a firearm?

      As a weapon’s instructor, I have never experienced anyone being hurt by a weapon (any type), without the careless actions of the owner or handler of the weapon. The knee-jerk call for “Gun Control” will not solve the issue of mental deceased individuals using a weapon to hurt others. The young man who sat atop the tower of the University of Texas and shot people randomly was known to most as a nice guy, then suddenly he resorted to doing this heinous thing. We have New York – do we not allow people to rent vehicles?

      Being prepared individually, and asking others to do the same thing is a reasonable thing to do.

  • Karen Isaacson

    Reply Reply November 6, 2017

    Charleston was a case of a shooter being invited in, praying with his victims, and then opening fire on mostly women stating that black men were raping white women. How do you prepare for that? How do you go to church in Texas and anticipate a shooter? And if you go with the ‘good guy with a gun’ theory, that doesn’t do much good either. Before the ‘good guy’ reacted, over 20 people already had fatal gunshots and more were wounded. There are common factors among the majority of these mass shooters, and one is misogyny; Texas church guy hurt his ex-wife and child and got kicked out of the Air Force because of it. Elliott Rodger shot 7 people because he felt women owed him sex. How about we start looking for ways to stop people like these from getting weapons in the first place? Even Scalia said there’s no reason not to restrict ownership as we see fit (read his opinion in Heller if you don’t believe me). We’re at the point where something’s got to give and ‘thoughts and prayers’ aren’t it, and retroactive victim blaming (they should have had guns/mace/knives/martial arts training!) aren’t it either.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply November 6, 2017

      Karen, you’ve been a subscriber for a few years now and I appreciate that. You posed great questions, but the logical progression that you laid out doesn’t necessarily mesh with reality.

      1. If you want to look at these 2 shootings through the lens of misogyny, then the way to prepare may be the same as preparing for a date rape situation…you treat everyone with kindness and respect and have a plan to use violence to shut them down if they decide to use violence to impose their will on you. Being able to defend yourself doesn’t make you a bad person. Stopping someone who’s trying to use violence to impose their will on you does not make you a bad person. It’s a choice and you either choose to prepare or you choose not to prepare. Neither option is risk free or consequence free.

      2. “How do you go to church in Texas and anticipate a shooter?” I’ve done exactly that every time I’ve gone to church for most of my adult life. Every time I go to a sporting event, airport, mall, etc.

      I’ve sat in the foyer of a church where a member issued a death threat on the pastor earlier in the day and who left his house with a gun. The entire reason I was there was to protect innocent people from him. Less than 5 people knew what was going on. Everyone else enjoyed the evening none-the-wiser. The guy didn’t show up, got back on his meds, and was no longer a threat.

      Situations like this are a reality for some of us…we know about threats that most don’t. We are constantly scanning for specific people and known threats…and preparing to handle them effectively so that the general population never has to be aware of the danger or take much effort to stay safe. The threats are constant and canceling life because of threats isn’t an option. Preparing for them is.

      3. The good guy with a gun was a next door neighbor. He wasn’t in the church when the shooting started. Your comment makes it seem like you think he sat around and watched while the shooter shot everyone. I apologize if I misunderstood your comment, but a “good guy with a gun” was the only thing that kept the death toll from being MUCH higher. Remember, this was a rural town and they eventually held the shooter at gunpoint for 5-7 minutes while they were on the phone with police, waiting for them to show up. That’s 5-7 minutes that he wasn’t shooting people more in the church and 5-7 minutes that he didn’t have to escape.

      4. We have ways to stop people like the Texas murderer from getting guns. They don’t work. Laws ONLY change the behavior of law abiding citizens. They don’t change the behavior of people who are willing to break the law. The most effective way to stop a mass murderer is to stop them kinetically.

      5. I don’t appreciate you projecting “retroactive victim blaming” on me or anyone else trying to help people get prepared. My article, comments, and questions were directed towards people who want to make a positive impact if they find themselves in a similar situation. Neither I nor you know the background of the victims or what actions they did after the violence began. I did not Monday morning quarterback the event and it’s not helpful to make that accusation.

      I understand that you may not want to adopt the same mindset that I have. That’s fine. I accepted the fact long ago that most people won’t. But I’d ask you to do a little more research before going off on the type of people who are willing to risk their lives to protect yours. Again, I appreciate that you’ve been a long time subscriber…and I hope that you will be able to take my reply as calmly as I took your comment.

      • John Weiss

        Reply Reply November 6, 2017

        An excellent response to the ladies comments. Being a veteran and trained shooter I tend to be hyper aware of who and what are around me. Glad to see from the comments here I am not alone.

      • John Watson

        Reply Reply November 6, 2017

        Your last line to Karen is ” Priceless “

        • Ox

          Reply Reply November 6, 2017

          Thank you, John. It wasn’t an attempt to be cute and I hope it wasn’t taken that way. I don’t take any of my subscribers for granted and I don’t want to alienate her. At the same time, there are things that I don’t feel I should let go unchallenged. The challenge for me is to try to do it in a way that’s not abrasive.

      • Jay Williams

        Reply Reply November 6, 2017

        Outstanding points!

    • David Durkop

      Reply Reply November 6, 2017

      Karen, It is easier said than done. I can go into most cities and get any type of weapon I want on the back market.

      If not a firearm, an improvised explosive.

      Or how about a pickup truck with a a few 55 gallon drums of gasoline in the back and some type of improvised ignition source.

      I can come up with a 100 ways of killing people, that’s not hard. What is hard is prevention. What is harder is the training and staying trained for the response.

      Sadly, today you have to do a threat assessment everywhere you go. If X happens I am going to do Y.

  • John Stanton

    Reply Reply November 7, 2017

    In Chicago the Cardinal said no guns in church because we come together to help one another, not to kill one another. I am certain that is true for the people who believe and regularly attend church. But the criminals intent on inflicting harm and death don’t go to church to help others. Hey Cardinal I get your point but you fail to realize that the bad guys don’t go to church to begin with, so if they are there it is only to do harm. I suggest that you have priests train as human shields if that is your myopic view.

    • Ox

      Reply Reply November 7, 2017

      With all due respect, the Cardinal needs to read his Bible more.

      Killing is not a sin. Murder is.

      Jesus told his disciples to sell their extra tunics and buy swords (the equivalent of concealed carry for the time).

      When Peter sliced off the ear of the guard who came to apprehend Jesus, Jesus didn’t react in shock and didn’t tell Peter to drop his sword or throw it away…he told him to put it back in it’s sheath.

      Stopping evil IS helping one another. If the Cardinal was walking down the street with a nun and 3 guys started beating her and dragging her off, would he do what he could to stop evil or would he be forced to stand by and watch helplessly because he had no training or tools to stop violence?

      Laws & rules limiting weapons never stop lawbreakers. They only hobble law abiding citizens.

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