Four in five Protestant pastors (81%) say they have some type of security measures in place to deal with an active shooter during a church service, according to Lifeway Research. Fifty-seven percent have an intentional plan for an active shooter situation; and 54% say they use armed church members.
American Family News contacted Ryan Dobson of Home Safe about those findings. He says the survey is a little vague about what it means to count on armed church members.
"You're [saying you are] pretty sure there's some people in your congregation who have concealed carry permits, and you hope they're going to act in case of an active shooter? That's not a plan," he argues.
If, however, a church uses armed church members as part of a trained security team, that's different, says Dobson. He explains that's what stopped the West Freeway Church of Christ shooting in 2019. Despite the understandable panic that day in the Fort Worth-area church, a third shot felled the shooter.
Former reserve deputy sheriff Jack Wilson, the head of the church's trained security team, had the gunman down in six seconds.
"That was one trained individual," Dobson says, referring to Wilson. "That was an insane shot in a high-stress situation with a huge congregation around him. It was a very, very trained person."
Dobson urges families to have a plan in addition to whatever security measures the church has. He and his family, for example, were sitting in the balcony one Sunday when he put his plan into action.
"We were sitting up there when a guy came up – and he looked very strange. I saw it immediately and it just didn't sit right with me," he recalls. "So, we got up and we left. We didn't go downstairs; we just left church."
According to Dobson, "nothing happened" after they left. But at least they had a plan.