Churches, along with many other “soft targets,” appear to be under attack in America. While the media fans the flames of “Islamophobia” it is predominantly protestant Christian churches that have borne the brunt of deadly violence. The First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas being the most recent example with 26 dead and 20 more injured literally decimating the small town.
Before I go on, for those of you who wish to help, the church has posted three GoFundMe campaigns for the victims and families.
As horrific as the attack on the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs was, it was not the first and will likely not be the last. If not for Stephen Willeford, an alert AND ARMED neighbor nearby, the tragedy may well have been much worse and may have potentially spread to other locations as well.
Less than six weeks before the attack in Texas, there was a deadly church shooting at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee. The gunman, identified as Emanuel Kidega Samson, fatally shot a woman and left half a dozen wounded as services were ending.
Like the shooting in Texas, the Tennessee shooter was stopped by Caleb Engle, who was able to get to his gun and respond to the threat. The major difference being that Caleb Engle was able to respond much quicker in Tennessee than Stephen Willeford in Texas. The death toll of each is a testament to the difference that response time makes.
It is also worth noting that the attack on the church in Tennessee was allegedly in response to another deadly church massacre carried out by a white supremacist in Charleston, S.C., according to a report by The Associated Press.
The AP, citing a law enforcement report, said that a note, found in the shooter’s car, made reference to retaliation for the actions of Dylann S. Roof, the white supremacist responsible for the 2015 murders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston where nine parishioners were slain.
While the motives in South Carolina and Tennessee appear to be racial, the motive of the Texas shooter is as yet unclear other than reports of threats made towards the shooter’s ex-mother-in-law. However, despite the motives, churches remain a recurring target of violence.
Violence and threats of violence are not exclusive to Christian churches. There have been bomb threats at more than 100 Jewish Community Centers and dozens of mosques vandalized and attacked.
Dallas Drake, a criminologist at the Center for Homicide Research in Minneapolis, and a team of scholars compiled a database of all church shootings between 1980 and 2005.
Most victims of church shootings likely know their attacker. Nearly half of the offenders (48%) were affiliated with the church, according to Drake, and nearly a quarter (23%) involved “intimate partners,” such as wives, girlfriends and husbands.
The same day as the Texas church shooting, Manuel Garcia was waiting for his estranged wife and her new boyfriend when they came out of church in the central California city of Fresno. The new couple had attended a 7:30 a.m. Mass at St. Alphonsus Church on Sunday.
An hour later, officers were called to the church parking lot, where they found the couple in a car, both with gunshot wounds to the head. Martha Garcia was dead. Her boyfriend, whose identity has not been released, died a little while later. Manuel Garcia killed them both, according to authorities.
Experts say that most attacks at houses of worship are not religiously motivated. Drake likened church shootings to mass murders at schools: They are horrific because of who and what they target, which also makes them high profile.
“It’s very safe to go to church on Sunday,” said Dallas Drake. “There are very few incidents, but they are high-profile when they occur.”
As safe as it is to go anywhere, like school, a movie theater, a nightclub, etc. You shouldn’t HAVE TO be armed to go to any of those places, but the truth is you SHOULD BE.
Whether it is church, the mall, the movies or wherever evil people seek to inflict harm on innocents, response time to the threat generally dictates the death toll.
An FBI Study in 2014 by Dr. Pete Blair, director of research for the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center (ALERRT) and an associate professor of criminal justice at Texas State University provides some valuable insight.
Blair and two other researchers examined more than 100 shootings between 2000 and 2012, investigating factors such as the average response time of law enforcement and the outcomes based on the actions taken by civilians at the scene.
Blair said it’s logical to assume casualties would be lower when civilians intervene before police arrive, but his research documented very few incidents that were actually stopped because a civilian was carrying a gun. Likely due to the fact that such shootings almost invariably occur in “gun free zones.” Places where civilians are prohibited BY LAW from being armed for their own self defense.
He also documented cases in which civilians took direct action. Civilians stopped about one out of every six active shooter events. The most common method was tackling the attacker, as was the case during a campus shooting in Seattle.
According to Blair, it would be difficult to draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of armed civilians in stopping active shooter events based on the limited data that exists.
In general though, Blair said, fewer people were killed or injured in the events that ended before police showed up at the scene.
Data suggests the best course of action for civilians is first to avoid the attacker, and if that’s not possible, to deny access by barricading themselves in locked rooms or other secure areas.
The avoidance and barricading advice may be very good courses of action in many situations. However, they are not necessarily even an option in many church shootings.
The open design of church sanctuaries doesn’t provide much in the way of avoiding the shooter or barricade options. Especially in small churches, which generally have one main entrance/exit, at the back of the sanctuary behind the parishioners. This limits escape and allows the shooter to enter largely unobserved by the majority of the congregants. These factors limit options in church settings with regard to avoiding, escaping or barricading against an active shooter.
An active shooter in a church is quite literally “shooting fish in a barrel.” This leaves only two real options: wait for the police or engage the shooter. An unarmed assault on the shooter, such as tackling or even throwing objects could be effective. Although there is a high risk in charging an armed assailant. It may also incite violence against more than the intended target, if the shooter was only targeting an individual or small group originally.
In the end, without knowing the target or the extent of the shooter’s rampage, there is only one option that can end it quickly and save the most lives. As cliché as it may sound, like Stephen Willeford (TX) and Caleb Engle (TN), it’s a good guy with a gun.
Proverbs 25:26 “A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.”
Luke 22:36 “he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”
Luke 10:21 “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace.”