By Massad Ayoob
Last month, we opened a discussion on the role of the firearms dealer in enhancing security at houses of worship. Attacks on churches, synagogues and mosques are nothing new. In some belief systems, those who come to worship are called “the flock.” The parable of “the sheep, the wolf and the sheepdog” popularized by Col. David Grossman, is a valid one. An armed intruder can freely slaughter the sheep if not met with the defensive fangs of those designated to protect the flock.
You and your team certainly have the tools to arm volunteer security, and will be happy to sell them to those who have courageously accepted the responsibility to protect others in what should be a haven of peace. But, more importantly, you and your staff have knowledge to impart to them as well.
Wondering how to get started on this noble mission? This month, we focus on an establishment that serves as a great example.
SafeSide Tactical is a state-of-the-art indoor shooting range and gun-shop operation with facilities in both Roanoke and Lynchburg, Va. Co-owned by Mitchell and J.R. Tyler, SafeSide Tactical opened Dec. 2012 and moved to a larger facility in Nov. 2015 after outgrowing its original location.
(Mitchell was kind enough to consent to an interview, so long as we didn’t divulge any information that could, if found in public domain by the wrong people, endanger their clientele and the people they serve. We thank him for his willingness to participate here.)
Mitchell began, “We started offering a Church Safety & Security Seminar last year. Our approach is to host a 90-minute free seminar and invite as many people as we can from our existing customer base — encouraging them to tell their pastor or other members about this free event.”
He continued, “The seminar consists of a discussion about the challenges faced when building the church’s plan for various scenarios — from domestic disturbances to active shooters. We don’t develop the plan during this session, but start to identify the questions they need to ask internally and maybe externally such as denomination, insurance, board, etc.”
Why are domestic disturbances covered? Because every so often, a battered woman or a member in a similar situation turn to spiritual counsel for help. If they’re advised to leave the abuser and he finds out, the house of worship and the leader of the congregation may become targets for his vengeful rage. Members of the security team need to know of such situations, and be able to recognize the dangerous person in question on sight.
Adds Tyler, “We sometimes have a panel I sit on that brings various perspectives, like church leadership and firearms instructors. The end of the seminar outlines a four-step approach to beginning or improving the church’s safety team.”
You and your team certainly have the
tools to arm volunteer security.
Details? He told us, “We’ve hosted close to 200 people in the free seminars, and have actually engaged with about 15 churches (roughly 100 team members). Our four-part approach includes three firearms safety and proficiency classes and a team-building scenario simulation. For the scenario simulation, we use airsoft guns and have a mock church set up in our training area.
“This is where we hammer home the impacts of crossfire, friendly fire, etc. — which we build on throughout the training — in addition to decision-making and marksmanship. We also offer onsite assessment of facilities and address non-firearm concerns like access points, door locks, emergency egress, communications and more.”
The program continues to evolve, now encompassing less-lethal responses to threats.
“This fall, we added additional courses for edged weapon and baton use, which have less potential for collateral damage,” Tyler shared. “When we first announced them, many of our clients told us they were already planning to take them once we rolled them out.”
Anything you sell, whether product or services, is measurable in customer satisfaction. Here is one testimonial Mitchell furnished to SI. (Editor’s Note: The name of the author and the house of worship have been withheld for obvious security reasons.)
“In a world of ever-growing threats against houses of worship, our pastor found it integral to the protection of his flock there be sheepdogs in place to stand against the wolves should they decide to attack. As the head of our church security team — with congregation numbers topping 1,000 some Sundays — it was my responsibility to locate a person or business to train our team in the proper protection of our church family. More importantly, however, was finding a resource able to provide this training from a biblical standpoint. We found all of this and more when we connected with SafeSide Tactical.
“Originally, we were using their services as regular customers and members, but quickly discovered their religious beliefs as they were not shy to express their love of God, along with an affinity for guns and training.
“After speaking with their knowledgeable, personable and well-trained staff, hearing their stance on church protection and learning about the resumes of the involved staff, it was easy to see SafeSide was going to be our ‘go-to’ for training needs.
“I’ve been beyond pleased with the staff’s attention to detail, the instructor’s ability to field questions and pair scenarios with real-world examples, the Godly relationships that have formed through this process and follow-up they’ve continued well past the training itself. The value of getting to watch my team grow into a more cohesive unit is invaluable!
“My prayer is this team is never needed, but I can rest a tiny bit easier knowing, should the wolves make themselves known, our team of sheepdogs is now better prepared to face the fight thanks to SafeSide.”
— E.M., Franklin County, Va.
Peace Of Mind
Even if the wolf never strikes a flock like the one above, the training from SafeSide Tactical has provided invaluable peace of mind to worshippers and clergy alike. A program such as this is the very embodiment of the mission that overarches the sale of defensive firearms to law-abiding citizens: The protection of the innocent.
1201 Shenandoah Ave. NW
Roanoke, VA 24017