It's Bring Your Gun to Church Day
On February 11, Fox News reported that the Arkansas House of Representatives had "approved a bill allowing concealed handguns in churches, despite hearing arguments that lawmakers should put their faith in God, not guns." The bill, which easily passed in the House and is headed to the Senate, "removes churches and other houses of worship from the list of places where concealed handguns are banned," leaving only bars as "private entities where concealed weapons are banned."
Five days later, Jim Adkisson pled guilty to last year's shooting rampage inside the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church that killed two parishioners and wounded half-a-dozen others. In the coming years, other state legislatures will no doubt debate the wisdom of allowing churchgoers to carry weapons inside of churches. In the meantime, Jeff Hawkins, a former chief security officer for a world-wide Christian ministry, has founded the Christian Security Network (CSN), as a response to burgeoning violence against Christian churches, schools, ministries and missionaries. "Christian organizations - churches, schools, ministries and missionaries - still struggle with concept of security and how it applies, if at all, to their institution and the Christian community as a whole."
On their website, the Christian Security Network says that it's "a national organization dedicated to the advancement of security, safety, and emergency planning for Christian churches, schools, ministries, and missionaries."
We address every day risks such as lawsuits and liability, medical emergencies, crime, disasters like fire and destructive weather, violent situations, "active shooters", and lost or abducted children; further we believe that by being proactive, the Christian community as a whole can minimize these risks. "We are not 'alarmists.' "We do not believe in a 'knee-jerk' reaction to things that happen in our world by taking unrealistic and sometimes dangerous and liable measures. "However, we are 'realists.'
The Christian community is at risk from all these things and as a whole is behind the curve compared to the secular world in terms of security and emergency preparedness. These situations will occur in the Christian church, in the Christian school, at the Christian ministry and against Christian missionaries.
Jim Hamilton, a senior writer for Neighbor Newspapers, recently pointed out that there have been 20 people killed in church shootings in the past two years, and the Christian Security Network claims that it "has tracked over 100 criminal incidents in over 25 states against churches."
I asked Jeff Hawkins the following questions, in a series of emails:
How is business since your January launch?
Jeffrey Hawkins: Our business is building awareness, and providing training and education of the overall security for the Christian community; there is great interest and much work to be done in this area. Response to our mission, resources, and services thus far has been great.
Will the Christian Security Network serve the security interests of religious entities other than Christian churches, for example, mosques or synagogues?
JH: There are other organizations that already service the security and emergency planning needs for other religions; the Christian Security Network is in contact with several of them to share information and resources, as well as serving on organizations such as the State Department Overseas Security Advisory Council and ASIS International, which address security for all religions.
Are there established statistics showing increased multiple victim shootings at Christian churches as opposed to other public venues?
JH: Unfortunately, [there aren't] ... even the FBI's statistics do not accurately track all shootings because in order for it to be put in a religious category, the incident has to be classified as a 'hate crime,' not just a shooting. Otherwise it just gets lumped together with all violent crimes. However, given what I have followed over the last 20 years, there are about as many shootings in religious venues as other public venues. Workplace shootings still outpace all others.
Do you support legislation -- similar to the bill that is winding its way through the Arkansas legislature -- that would allow churchgoers to carry concealed weapons into their churches?
JH: The Christian Security Network has never taken a stand endorsing or condemning churches that allow weapons as a means of protection. We totally support people's second amendment rights and respect our constitution and that freedom. We trust that legislation in any state would address training of weapon use in a public environment, be it a church, amusement park or shopping mall.