A place where people normally seek peace and refuge has again become the scene of America’s most recent mass shooting.
The deaths of 26 people Sunday at a Texas church – following the 2015 killing of nine people in a Charleston, S.C., prayer group — reveals why some churches have taken aggressive steps to keep worshipers safe – even putting guns in the hands of congregants.
Here are some measures area churches have taken to protect churchgoers:
Conceal-carry congregants: The Rev. Lawrence Bishop II has allowed some members of the Solid Rock Church in Monroe to bring their guns to services.
“We have lots of people who conceal-carry in our church,” he said. “From the choir, to the back of the church, to the sound man. I encourage anyone who has a license to carry a gun.”
Ohio’s concealed-carry law generally bans guns in churches but allows firearms inside with a pastor or religious leader’s permission.
Security teams: For more than a decade, First Christian Church, a 2,200-member megachurch in Springfield, has a security team in place, said Paul Slagle, director of administration. Last year, the church also paid to have a Springfield Police officer on patrol during services, Members of the security team are licensed to carry concealed weapons, but Slagle last year declined to comment on the number of security team members or whether they carry firearms.
“They’re all trained and licensed,” Slagle said of the security team. “To me that is a deterrent.”
Armed presence: At Phillips Temple in Trotwood, armed security guards routinely patrol the church grounds and stand watch inside during services and events, the Rev. James Washington told this news organization in 2013. Washington considers the effort a necessary deterrent from evil.
“The Bible calls it lawlessness. It’s just a complete disregard for what’s right and wrong and what’s legal and what’s not,” Washington said.
A number of security cameras also assist armed, off-duty officers at every service at Fairhaven Church in Centerville, Doug Piatt, director of building operations, also said in 2013.