Church & Synagogue Security After Pittsburgh Shooting

Today, people across the country have a mix of sadness and anger after the senseless mass murder at the Tree Of Life Congregation Synagogue in Pittsburgh PA.

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…(Some reports are saying that the shooting went on for 20 minutes…which is semi-correct, but not accurate.  Police were on scene within 5 minutes of the first 911 call and there was a long gap in the shooting before police and the shooter exchanged gunfire for 15 minutes.)

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 matter whether guns are legally available or not.  His motivations, beliefs, feelings, and mental condition don’t matter.  What matters is how individual people choose to respond when faced with a murderer.

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, fire, 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—earlier this month, there have been multiple attacks on Christians and churches in Nigeria that have resulted in 3 churches being burned and 59 deaths…in just 2 of several incidents.  They used guns, but they also incited riots and used fire.  100,000 gun laws wouldn’t have stopped these attacks 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:

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 always has been:

  1. Awareness
  2. Blunt force trauma

Since the shooting was at a house of worship, 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, flashlight or stealth tactical pen are great, but always be on the lookout for improvised weapons like coffee cups, water bottles, Bibles, backpacks, chairs, etc.  (The best training for this is >Fight To Your Gun<)

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 violence at houses of worship happens during the week, between the building 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 Drawstroke Mastery program which comes with a 1 hour follow-along dry fire class that I did for a church security team and that’s used by church security teams from coast to coast.

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





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1 Comment

  • left coast chuck

    Reply Reply October 29, 2018

    Once again, a group of people with a snowflake attitude toward their safety. Trump called it correctly when he said if they had been armed it wouldn’t have been as bad as it was. Then they respond by saying Trump isn’t welcome at their sob sister performances. Is this harsh? Damned right it is. When are the snowflakes going to learn there is evil in the world? I don’t care if somehow the snowflakes managed to get all the guns in this country melted down. How long does one suppose it would be before there was a steady stream of guns coming north along with the drugs and illegals flowing across our borders? How many firearms are extant in the world today? Billions? I doubt that there is any where close to an accurate count. Does anyone with an IQ above 25 really think that it is possible to get all the firearms from the face of the earth?

    “Oh, do we have to go armed even to church?”

    You better believe it. Even the Pilgrims, in pictures depicting scenes from their lives show them going to church armed. I believe the village rules provided that adult males were required to bring their firearms to church services.

    In addition, the media needs to be castigated by every sane person for continually showing this nut job’s face and describing his demented ravings in detail while providing every detail of his misguided life they can find. Reading the opinions of folks who treat mental illness, it seems to be their opinion that such notoriety stirs up the wackos to act in a similar manner.

    The column suggests some proactive steps to take to try to identify a dangerous situation before it happens and some good suggestions about how to react when the situation develops. Even a bumrush by the congregation is better than fleeing. Yes, some will get injured but in a church congregation if the entire congregation bumrushes the shooter, he will get taken down. That requires discussion beforehand as suggested in the article. Keeping one’s fingers crossed and hoping for the best is not an option.

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