Churches are arming themselves against mass shooters


“Fire!” “The good news is that you’re here.” “The bad news is that the age of terrorism has not yet come.” “It’s going to get worse.” Today, I’m at the Precision Shooting Center in Forest, Mississippi, a small town about 45 minutes outside of Jackson. These are members of local churches. They’re here to take a class to become certified as armed church security. “Do what you have to do. Move out.” “Everyone stand up.” “Pick up your gun.” “Give me some good shots.” The instructor is Clyde Morgan, a 77-year-old Vietnam veteran who runs the gun range on his family farm. “By being on a church security team you agree to take human life, to kill somebody.” “I know what it feels like when your life’s not worth a nickel, but by being on this team,” “that’s what you’re willing to do.” Caleb, a member of a local church who asked me not to use his last name, is one of the more experienced gun owners in the class. “Hands!” “We come from a very conservative background with a lot of very conservative, older people” “who would make the argument: God protects his children.” “I offer a little bit different argument:” “God protected me by putting a brain between my ears” “and giving me the ability to defend myself.” “Not only did he give me a brain, but he also gave me the responsibility” “to protect people that can’t protect themselves.” “So you shot two people.” “Two, two, and back to two.” “Okay. Alright. That’s good.” “This is Mississippi, okay?” “A gun is as common as fried catfish and sweet tea.” “I would rather the good guys have the guns, mildly trained, than not have them at all.” In 2016, Mississippi passed The Church Protection Act, allowing churches to form their own security teams. “Thank y’all.” The legislation was a response to the mass shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina that killed nine, including the pastor. Mississippi was the first to pass a law like this, but Texas was next. Alabama introduced a similar law that passed through their senate in April. Here in Mississippi, the requirements are vague. At Clyde’s range, shooters of all experience levels can get certified as armed church security after a single eight hour course if they already have an enhanced carry permit. “Be careful because it only shot once.” “She pulled the trigger. She is not pulling it all the way back.” “Yeah, it hangs up.” “It hung up on me one time.” “Do you have another gun?” “No. I just bought that one yesterday.” “I’ve got a spare revolver. I’ll be right back.” “Okay.” Not everyone I talked to thinks it’s a good idea to arm amateurs. I visited Ken Winter, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Police Chiefs. “This is a situation where you have enabling legislation that puts together a security team,” “gives them the authority basically to use deadly force if needed, but the reality is,” “as we know it, is even trained police officers, who constantly train on the use of force,” “the use of deadly force and firearms qualifications, still sometimes make mistakes.” “And make decisions that end up costing somebody — an innocent person — their life.” “When the shooting starts, you don’t know what’s going to happen.” “Frankly, myself, I don’t think I’d want to be sitting in a location where individuals who…” “the most mandatory training that they have is an eight hour course on how to handle a firearm.” “That’s all that’s required.” “I mean, gosh, it takes longer than that to get your driver’s license.” We’re on our way to speak to a local pastor when we hear the news of a church shooting in Texas. “Alright, welcome back. We’re continuing to follow breaking news out of Texas.” “Multiple people have been shot at a church in Sutherland Springs, located east of San Antonio.” 27 were left dead, including the gunman, a former U.S. Air Force airman named Devin Patrick Kelley, making the Sutherland Springs shooting the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history. “There’s a dead body right there.” As the gunman left the church, Stephen Willeford, a nearby resident and firearms instructor, emerged from his home barefoot, armed with his own rifle. Willeford shot and wounded Kelley. Following a high speed car chase, Kelley shot himself in the head and died. The incident reignited the gun debate, with some pointing out that the high rate of gun ownership in the area did not prevent the country’s deadliest church shooting and others arguing it would have been worse had Willeford not intervened. “I can only say this: if he didn’t have a gun, instead of having 26 dead,” “you would have had hundreds more dead.” “So that’s the way I feel about it.” Lorenzo Neal, head of the New Bethel AME Church in Jackson, told me he still prefers to keep guns out of the church. “The news that just broke, how does that make you feel as a pastor?” “It grieves me to know that a person could come to what is considered a very safe space —” “a sacred space — and commit such a heinous crime.” “And of course, go back to the shooting in South Carolina.” “Charleston.” “In Charleston.” “My friend was killed.” “The pastor, Pinckney.” “I wear these bands.” “I’m a survivor of gun violence.” “In 1980, my 25-year-old mother was killed in an act of domestic violence.” “She was shot five times.” “Three times in the back, twice in the head.” “My 18-year-old nephew was killed in a robbery that went bad.” “Someone was attempting to rob him and his friends.” “This blue one is for a friend of mine who’s son was killed at a mass shooting.” “Gun violence is the number one issue that we should consider as a health issue.” “But we have more lives being lost to gun violence, and we have legislators” “who are too scared to do anything.” “And the ones who are doing something are promoting laws and bills that are reinforcing this idea” “that, ‘Oh yeah, we need more protection, we need more protection.’” “No we don’t. We need common sense.” That night, at his home in the nearby town of Brandon, Clyde gives a slightly different reaction. “Yeah, so I guess we can just start talking about what happened today in Texas.” “How does that make you feel?” “Well, I don’t have an answer for that.” “I don’t know that anyone does.” “I know that the guns will be blamed, and that’s the obvious thing that everyone will key on.” “But do you have a spare tire and a jack in your car or truck?” “Of course.” “Why? You want to get out and change a tire?” “Well no, you don’t want to but you might have to.” “You might have to.” “But the difference with… the problem with that analogy is that I’m not going to” “hurt anybody if something goes wrong when I’m trying to change my tire, right?” “Yeah, that’s right, yeah.” “And that’s the real… that’s the rub.” “The answer — the only answer I see — is you and I are going to have to be able to defend ourselves.” “And so some of the wrong guys might get shot.” “Yeah, right. Police do that too.” “As horrible as one accidental death is or some tragedy in a church,” “it pales into insignificance on doing away with guns or restricting our ability to fight with those guns.” “When we start saying ‘Let’s outlaw the guns…’” “You know, I talked about the #4 buckshot that I used in Vietnam?” “Yeah.” “And that’s what I chose to fight with, and that’s what saved my life?” “And there it is.” “You know, where does it stop?” Meanwhile, as a retired law enforcement officer, Ken Winter does not take the burden of accidental deaths lightly. “It it’s a level of machoism, to have a gun.” “You know these type people?” “Oh yeah. Yeah I do.” “I see them all the time.” “I see these guys walking around carrying a gun hanging on their hip just simply because they can.” “And I often think — I wonder what would happen if somebody challenged you?” “In a lot of ways, a person carrying a gun who really truly isn’t consistently trained and qualified…” “it’s kind of like what Bear Bryant used to say about throwing a pass in a football game.” “He says that there’s three things that can happen, and two of them are bad.” “So when you’ve got someone carrying a gun, there are a whole lot of bad things that can happen,” “and very few good things.”

25 thoughts on “Churches are arming themselves against mass shooters”

  1. What the actual fuck. This is soo idiotic, so the problem made because people have guns is solved by giving more people guns. A fire weapon should only be used by trained professionals that work in law enforcement. Better to help the professionals than put more life in danger just because you want to feel powerful.

  2. Lets react to violence with more violence…Who needs gun laws…Its sad that this is necessary in a country that aspires to be the greatest in the world…

  3. Why not just hire off duty police officers that are trained to do this job??? a crap ton of churches have been doing this for decades money shouldn't be an issue heck I've heard of off duty police officers volunteer for this work.

  4. Sure go ahead. Ban all guns, that'll work. Just like the prohibition days and the war on drugs. Restricting people has always worked in the past.

  5. wait until bob finds out the priest has been putting his sin meat into his little boy. lets see how new gun owners react.

  6. I see their point, but come on.. it's highly unlikely that there will be mass shootings in churches in particular. There are 37 million churches in the world with 34,000 (Christian) denominations.

  7. The quality of the report is good, but it is to bios.
    Imagine the President, a Bank, a precious art Museum… with no guns! They will not last a day.
    That’s why there are all protected with guns.
    A gun free place is an invitation to bad people. Yes, we have to advocate for more preparation and training of guards. That is productive; bud a place with no guns is a place of victims and easy targets.
    No matter what you say or what is your opinion, this is an absolute and self-evident Truth. That’s why the President or the Banks will never be without guns.

  8. That police chief, what a joke. I bet he knows macho assholes with guns. Probably a good number of cops he worked with. Not to say all LEOs are like that, but I think everyone at some point has interacted with one before. The chief is also extremely stupid and/or biased. The vast number of CCW holders are not wannabe tough guys, compared to people who are major pussies and become become cops to compensate for it (I know from experience, having childhood friends who went into law enforcement, and have no business being cops). The ones I know that are the biggest assholes and wannabe tough guys, are also the biggest pussies. The toughest cops, the ones with confidence, balls, etc. always seem to be the friendliest.

  9. Quick question. Why don't you guys have the comments section open up for the video "David Hogg…The NRAs worst nightmare?" The one with a few thousand downvotes?

  10. pastor needs to conceal carry a firearm and start being a soldier. commonsense if everybody had guns openly, people doing wrong, would do right, or die. thus everyone is 100% safer. cop's are no different from the common criminal gang member. Gun's will also keep them in their proper place.

  11. What if you live in a liberal state? Like California or any state on the east coast except Florida and Pennsylvania.

  12. Now they finally figure out they need to defend themselves after years of paranoia, gun free signs and people being shot because of major stupidity. Finally they start to figure it out.

  13. I just don't understand why so people are against banning guns… I live in a country where I don't have to assume that everyone could possibly carry a gun and I never heard of a shooting in this country on tv, but I did hear of many many shootings in the us.
    Maybe some pro gun people want to think about that…

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