Protecting The Flock

The case for armed security at churches gains new momentum after Sutherland Springs

Churches are what the FBI would call a “soft target,” security consultant Mike Gurley said. They are an open-door, welcoming environment. And they don’t just open one door, they open all doors, to anyone who wants to come in.

 

Defenseless people.

That’s how Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tackitt Jr. described the members of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, who died Nov. 5 when a heavily armed gunman stormed into the Sunday morning worship service. Clad head-to-toe in black tactical gear, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley shot two people outside the white wood-frame church before walking inside and spraying the congregation with rounds from an AR-15 rifle as he stalked up and down the aisle. Kelley killed 26 people, including the unborn baby of a pregnant woman. Another 20 people suffered injuries.

Churches are what the FBI would call a “soft target,” security consultant Mike Gurley said. They are an open-door, welcoming environment. And they don’t just open one door, they open all doors, to anyone who wants to come in. “So, in a way, the sheriff’s statement is true, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a security component in every church,” Gurley said.

As the horrific news spilled out from the rural central Texas community, home to just 400 residents, leaders in other churches began to think about their own vulnerability and what they could do to mitigate it. In response to the increased interest, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention plans to hold four special security conferences around the state in the coming months. Mark Yoakum, the convention’s director of church ministries, fields requests for help with security plans year-round. Already in 2017, 15 churches have participated in the risk assessment process. Next year, Yoakum expects that number to double, at least.

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