By Massad Ayoob
We’ve all seen the horror stories on the news of madmen, feral humans and fanatics who entered houses of worship and committed mass murder upon innocent, helpless worshipers and clergy.
Sutherland Springs, Texas. A murderous coward kills 26 people and wounds 20 more in a small church before a neighbor armed with an AR-15 rifle, Stephen Willeford, engages and shoots the perpetrator.
Charleston, S.C. A fanatical young white supremacist enters an African American church and murders nine helpless parishioners.
Pittsburgh, Pa. An anti-Semitic terrorist enters a synagogue and murders 11 people, wounds another seven and is finally shot down by police and captured.
Half of these mass murderers surrendered as soon as they met armed police response. In the first case, the heroic Willeford was simply not allowed by time and circumstances to stop the massacre any sooner than he did. However, there have been other cases where armed churchgoers who were there on the scene who were able to use their guns to nip such killing sprees in the bud, greatly reducing the casualty count.
Church security is
finally receiving the
attention it deserves.
Colorado Springs, Colo. The heavily armed mass murderer opens fire in the parking lot of the New Life Church, killing his first victims, then bursts inside, obviously intending to greatly increase his death toll. Instead, he is met by church security volunteer Jeanne Assam, who rushes toward him with her Beretta 92 blazing in her hands. Her 9mm bullets drop him decisively, leaving him with only enough strength to finish the job by shooting himself.
To anyone who doesn’t have an anti-gun political agenda, the conclusion is obvious: It will save a great many lives if armed, competent and good men and women are present when monsters attack a house of worship. And the sooner they can engage him, the shooter’s devastating impact will be greatly reduced.
For this reason, church security is finally receiving the attention it deserves. And yes, there is a part firearms retailers can productively, benevolently play. Offered in example: Barry Laws.
Marketed as “Louisville’s premier indoor range,” Openrange has taken an active role in training security volunteers for houses of worship in Kentucky.
Along with his training director Marlan Ingram, Openrange Owner and President Barry Laws has developed a response program.
“We worked to create a realistic, simple-to-use system similar to L.E.’s current active-shooter training. We’ve reached out to houses of worship in the Louisville, Kentucky area to assist them with their security needs,” he said.
Obviously, no one can teach what they haven’t learned yet; Laws paid his research and training dues.
“Openrange has been working on this program since 2015,” he shared. “We have received input from Homeland Security, local L.E. and church security teams.”
A layman might expect a gun-related business to focus on selling hardware to this segment of the market. In this case, the layman would be wrong.
According to Laws, “We don’t recommend any specific firearms or ammo other than the obvious ‘serviceable firearms and ammo’ the user has complete control — in our observation — and trust in.”
Developing A Curriculum
We asked Laws about the parameters of the training he offers. He replied, “We have a very specific function: To have those who are dedicated to providing church security be able to ‘on command, in a crowded environment’ track and eliminate any threat to life or grave bodily injury in the shortest period of time. We also train the team to provide aid and stop bleeding when the threat is eliminated. Statistically, the event should be over before law enforcement arrives. The team is trained to communicate with L.E. officials, and is trained on how to transition from threat eliminators to ‘suspects’ by L.E.”
Laws outlined four important considerations for implementing a counter-threat program at local houses of worship:
1. Provide an assessment of the team’s skills. Members will be judged accordingly. Training will bring the skills of the weakest link up to speed if possible. Any individual unable or unwilling to progress will be advised to be removed from the team handling firearms and placed in a non-deadly-force role. Training consists of exacting performance under pressure at a level where crowded environments won’t be at risk.
2. After “Advanced Skills” are proven, the team is trained and tested in crowded environment scenarios with non-lethal airsoft and then live-fire drills with shoot/no shoot targets under time and under pressure. The best performer would take the “lead” in the threat elimination — without regard to communication, providing aid, etc.
It’s one job and one job only: Eliminate the threat while minimizing collateral damage.
3. Once an advanced level of skill is shown in crowded environments, the team is requested to come to practice sessions at least biweekly.
4. The church is also encouraged to have the team qualify quarterly to assess their skill levels. Anyone unable or unwilling to qualify will be advised to take a non-lethal role on the church security team.
Following The Role Model
A cornerstone of the success of Barry Laws’ and Openrange’s training program is obviously their work with law enforcement, building upon strategies and tactics developed by professionals who have deeply studied this sort of thing.
In early America, settlers learned to bring their muskets to church to fend off raids by Native American tribes. In 1974, the Ma’alot Massacre taught Israel the importance of training and arming school personnel against terrorists, and the concept was proven in the decades following. Today, it applies equally well to houses of worship.
The importance of the contributions we in the firearms industry can offer to this lifesaving effort is obvious. Shooting Industry salutes Barry Laws and his team at Openrange. They’re a role model for others in firearms retailing and range management to follow in the future.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series. Next month, Martin Tyler of SafeSide Tactical shares how his store is interfacing with religious leaders to establish security programs. For any comments on these articles, send to firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation online: www.facebook.com/shootingindustry