On December 29, 2019, a madman shot and killed two innocent people inside West Freeway Church of Christ before he was shot and killed by Jack Wilson, an NRA instructor and former reserve deputy sheriff. This all took place in a little over 6 seconds. Soon after the shooting, Democratic Presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg stated “It’s the job of law enforcement to have guns and to decide when to shoot. You just do not want the average citizen carrying a gun in a crowded place.” I am not sure what planet Mr. Bloomberg lives on but unfortunately, he is wrong. We would all love to have our own personal bodyguards like Mr. Bloomberg has, but according to The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ (BJS) report  that came out in September 2019, on average the response time on 911 calls involving violent crimes is 10 minutes. If Jack Wilson had not reacted in less than 6 seconds and they waited on law enforcement to show up, more people would have probably died that day.
If we take a moment and study the entire BJS report, one of the more disturbing statistics is 63.5% of response times to a violent crime can take from 6 minutes to 1 hour before law enforcement arrives. Most attacks are well over by the time 1st responders arrive on the scene. I don’t know about you but if the average response time is 10 minutes and I only have seconds to save myself, one of my family members or an innocent person, I am taking action. I will be happy to articulate my actions when the police arrive.
If we take a look at the November 5, 2017 shooting at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church. What most churches don’t know the shooter went into the church, shot everyone that was there, then the shooter went back out to his vehicle to reload. The shooter then came back inside the church a second time and started to execute those that were still alive. As he was heading outside another time, possibly to get more ammo and continue killing people, he was confronted by Stephen Willeford. Stephen Willeford is also an NRA firearms instructor and “good guy with a gun” who had the presence of mind, training and alertness to see the shooter had on a ballistic vest with no side panels. That is where Stephen placed his first shot. Stephen Willeford’s intervention caused the shooter retreated to his truck and attempt to flee. If not for Stephen Willeford’s actions, responding from his home across the street from the Sutherland Springs Baptist Church more people would have died that day.
So when we discuss why we really need guns in churches, I remind people to look at the national average of response time for first responders arriving at a violent crime. Remember BJS reported the average response times on 911 calls involving violent crimes is 10 minutes. Clint Smith, President and Director of Thunder Ranch, said, "When seconds count, the cops are just minutes away." The shooting in White Settlement was over in less than 15 seconds because of an armed safety team. According to Julie Workman, a survivor of the shooting in Sutherland Springs Baptist Church, it was 15 minutes before the first responder came into the church after the shooter had left and the massacre had stopped. This reason alone gives you enough justification to have armed safety team members in your church.
When your church decides to form its’ own safety team here are a couple of suggestions. Look for current and retired law enforcement officers or military personal who attend your houses of worship. Enlisting the assistance of these individuals will help more rapidly create the safety team ministry. Remember this is a ministry like any other ministry in your church and should be considered as such. Speak to current or retired law enforcement or military personal about running the safety team or being at least an advisor due to their training. Enlisting persons who may already have training and experience that qualifies them for safety team members makes sense from a safety as well as a liability standpoint. When the church takes on the duty of providing security-type services, it must do so “reasonably,” and from a liability conscious perspective. A church’s actions are more likely to be considered “reasonable” and less likely to be negligent if the individuals it chooses to be responsible for protecting the congregation are those who have extensive public safety and emergency response training.
After developing your team the now comes the discussion of proper training for churches and houses of worship. With or without proper training a church runs the risk of being sued when a safety team member has to use his or her weapon. Litigation can be greatly reduced if there is a history of the delivery of a high-quality training program. The training program should be focused on being proactive and watching for those that may come into your church to do harm. Policy and procedures should be in place that state all armed safety team members must do some sort of active shooter training by a reputable company to help reduce liability. James Simmons with Simmons Law Group explains the importance of church firearm training. "Unfortunately, a Church runs the risk of being sued whenever a safety team member fires their weapon. However, legal liability exposure is greatly reduced when safety team members are trained by professionals, there is proper documentation, and safety protocols are followed. Therefore, by being proactive and vigilant, you reduce the possibility of violence and mitigate the Church's legal liability."
Training like Situational Awareness, Threat Profiling, Verbal De-escalating and using tools such as Laser Shot shoot don’t shoot simulators assists safety team members with becoming proactive and not reactive in reducing violent encounters. It is critical that you employ the assistance of reputable companies that make church safety their primary focus. If the company’s main focus is not the expansion of the kingdom of God, be leery of their training techniques. Church safety teams are not a police department or a military unit, they are servants of God and the church. A person in need can be misidentified as a possible threat. If handled incorrectly and without compassion the encounter can lead to severe legal or civil liability, not to mention the missed opportunity to minister to someone in need. We cannot stress the importance of proper training from Christian based organizations like Trinity Security Allies.
All safety team members should hold themselves accountable to a high standard. When carrying a firearm inside the church to protect the flock, armed team members must understand that they are held to a higher standard because of the power they hold. We must not take this position lightly. Remember we are working on expanding the kingdom of God, all glory is to Him and we are his watchmen/watchwomen over His Bride. Remember “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away”. 1 Peter 5:2-4.
For more information on this topic, go to TrinitySecurityAllies.com/Resources and download your free booklet on Carrying Weapons in Church.
[Reference: The Best and Worst Police Response Times of 10 Major U.S. Cities https://www.securitysales.com/news/best-worst-police-response-times/
I want to thank everyone for your thoughts and prayers over the Christmas holidays. Most of you know that my mother passed away Christmas day and I spent the next week in Virginia with the family and attending the funeral. I drove up to Virginia and had the chance to reflect on my mother’s life. My mother was an amazing person. Some who have known her might have called her opinionated, hardheaded and would not back down from a fight. They would be correct in all accounts but I feel my mother had that right. So today I am going to step away from Trinity Security Allies and talk a little about my mother.
Born in 1936, Mom was the oldest of five siblings. Her family was not rich but I heard they where hard working and provided for all the children. Mom would tell me that her father was tough on her and even though she didn’t talk about it, I felt there may have been some abuse in the family. In her teens she lost one of her brothers to an illness and years later she lost a sister in an automobile accident. She was married at 17 to my dad and proceeded to have 4 sons. The first three boys were only two years apart in age with my youngest brother not coming into the family until I was 14 years old.
The thing I remember about my mom and dad were they were both hard workers and had a strong religious beliefs. As early as I can remember I have always been in the church. We were Baptist so on Sunday we would go to Sunday school and then the Sunday service. We would head home for lunch and a possible nap and then back to church for the Sunday evening service. Even when we moved from Fort Worth to Glen Rose that tradition didn’t stop. The only difference was that First Baptist Church in Fort Worth and the First Baptist Church in Glen Rose was the size. In Glen Rose we knew all the church members and sometime our Sunday would be an all day church function. Sunday school, the service and lunch with a member’s family or at the church. Small town living. Our parents formed our base on family, hard work, going to church and loving the Lord. My brothers and I lived for making our parents proud of us and we worked really hard on not disappointing them.
When my father shot and killed a deacon of our church after a Sunday night service in 1970 the world that we had grown up in just fell apart. We moved from the small town comfort of Glen Rose and actuality got lost in the larger town of Pensacola, FL. I went from a graduating class of 35 to a class of over 300. At 16 years old I became bitter and angry about what had happened and my mother and I drifted apart. I resented the fact that she would not think about the past but always was looking at the future. She realized to think about the past would only cause her to loose focus on her mission in life, that of taking care of her four boys. We never went hungry, always had clothes to wear and a warm place to lay our head down at night.
Even though there was so much uncertainty at times, the three oldest boys never lost sight of our one mission in life. Making our mother proud. We feared disappointing her more than anything else. We knew right from wrong and believe me, we were no saints but the thing we feared the most was having her come and get us out of jail if we did something wrong. If we got into trouble we had told each other that we would beg the officer to keep us in jail because we knew our life was over as we knew it when she came to get us out of jail.
But there was the base. The Christian and the hard working base that seemed to keep us out of trouble. I know I tried but it was mostly stupid things that would get me a slap on the wrist and the wrath of Mom but nothing that I would spend time in jail for. She had instilled in us the golden rule; love your neighbors as you love yourselves. We were always polite and known as good boys that she could be proud of.
In 1975 when I joined Norfolk Police Department my mother stopped talking to me for a year. Not that police work wasn’t a noble job; it was that she feared I might get killed. She also had a dream of be getting into ministry work. When she finally started talking to me again, two of my brothers joined the force and now she was mad at me because she felt that I was the instigator on getting them to enlist in the force and now she had to worry about all three oldest. Later in my career Mom found some pictures of us when we were small. In every picture we had guns on. Even in our pajamas we were armed with our toy six-shooters. She gave me copies of the pictures with a note stating “I should have figured out that all of you boys were either going to be outlaws or lawmen. I am always proud of telling people what my boys do for a living.” At her eulogy, the pastor praised her for raising four boys that were servants. The three oldest serving the community and the youngest serving the Lord as a minister. That she could hold her head up high for her dedication and hard work she had put into us to build that base. She built our base and because of that we never disappointed her.
What does this have to do with Trinity Security Allies? When we started this ministry she was one of our biggest supporters. It was full circle, I was now serving God training people to protect the flock. She didn’t get her minister but she did get me back into the church. Without her base on God, family and hard work I would not be where I am today. According to MARRIpedia, an online social science encyclopedia on all matters related to family, marriage, and religion, the rise in violent crime parallels the rise in families abandoned by fathers and that neighborhoods with a high degree of religious practice are not high-crime neighborhoods. So because of my mother’s strong degree of trust in God, she had four boys that all became servants and not burdens to society.
If we do not get back to the family and our love of God we are going to see more and more violence against not only the family but also the church. When we look back at the recent church violent incidents we see broken men coming from broken families and we as the church need to step up and change this. Men with the help of our wives need to lead our families to what my mother and father did which was loving God and hard work, not just work but servanthood. This is the base that formed the Howard boys and needs to be the base that we use to change the world. Thank you Mom, I love you and know that I will see you again.
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.