While attending our services and religious activities this weekend discussions will inevitably turn to the horrific violence that struck in Pittsburgh last weekend. Yet again, conversations will include questions like, “what can we do?” These discussions eventually evolve to the use of firearms in places of worship. However, too often these conversations are framed in simplistic terms. The decision to arm parishioners or an organized security team is not simple. There are very good theological and practical arguments on both sides of the debate.
Armed security provides the fastest possible response to a violent attack but it also comes with extensive additional risks and liabilities. Houses of worship who opt for armed security weather formal or informal should do so very carefully and consider the following:
1. Make sure any security plans comply with applicable laws. Some states have extensive requirements for armed security. Others are very lax. You are responsible for knowing your legal framework.
2. Understand that houses of worship are liable for all actions taken by armed security even if it’s unofficial security utilizing parishioners with carry permits.
3. Arming some form of security within a house of worship also requires that extensive additional training be provided and maintained. Such training should include at minimum law enforcement equivalent range qualification in addition to shoot/don’t shoot and scenario-based training to deal with crowded situations and threat identification. A carry permit does not constitute appropriate training.
4. Any armed security plans must be signed off on by your insurance company. Security operations are not covered by most standard church insurance policies and typically necessitate additional riders.
We don't support or oppose armed security. We are a cooperation between various faith based groups sharing best practices. Feel free to reach out to us with questions.