In the wake of this weekend’s tragedy in Texas and continued attacks against Orthodox Jewish citizens in Crown Heights, New York, many religious communities are seriously considering the need for organized, formalized defensive procedures. Here are some tips for creating your own security team:
1. Connect With Gun Owners In Your Religious Community
Do you know folks in your church or synagogue who enjoy going to the range? Talk to them. Get an assessment of their skill set – have they taken formalized training? Do they compete in IDPA, USPSA, 3 Gun, or other competitive shooting formats? Are they physically, emotionally, and financially capable of committing to such endeavors? Would they be willing to sacrifice some of their time to go beyond the basics and continually improve their skill set?
Many folks are unaware of just how many of their fellow parishioners are shooting sports enthusiasts. Get to know them! You are probably not alone in thinking that your place of worship could benefit from a formalized security team.
2. Seek High Quality, Formalized Training With Accredited Instructors
Like it or not, we all know that the basic concealed pistol license training does not prepare an individual to react in the best possible manner in the worst possible situation. While this is a fine starting point, a formal security team should be training at least once a month in a formal setting with structured goals.
Find local firearms instructors who are capable of teaching defensive firearm skills. This will range from basic drawstroke and weapon manipulation all the way to force-on-force classes incorporating Simunitions and live targets. Consider the environment you are likely to be engaged in, and train accordingly. Do you have access to facilities where a ‘mock church’ can be laid out using both threat and non-threat targets placed closely together?
3. It’s Not Just About The Gun
Handling an active shooter involved more than just returning fire. Do you have a medical plan? Who’s calling 911? Does everybody else know what to do when your team members stand, draw, and look for a shot?
Involve your whole community. There are undoubtedly doctors and/or nurses among your congregation. If they attend regularly and consistently, ask if they would be willing to carry a tourniquet or small medical kit. At the very least, be sure they know where those supplies are located inside your facility (you have purchased a mass bleed kit, right?).
Consider running a ‘walkthrough drill’ with your congregation. Minimizing panic – or at least, understanding what people are likely to do WHEN they panic - gives your shooters time to get into position and take their shot without having to dodge innocent bystanders.
No matter what, people will end up running for the closet exit. Take the time to sit in the congregation area to contemplate where a threat is likely to come from, and where people are likely to be running so that you can analyze the angles, distances, and backdrop that you might be shooting through.
Then, do your best to replicate these kinds of variables in your training.
4. Never Stop Improving
Training gets stale quickly. The human brain likes repetition – it helps to build and reinforce neuro pathways that allow you to move more fluidly and unconsciously during your body’s “fight or flight” response.
Be sure that you are training regularly and working to IMPROVE skills over time. If you’re a great marksman at 15 feet, try to be a great marksman at 25 feet. Then 50 feet. Add in malfunction drills. Find a few minutes on the weekend or in the morning to practice your draw stroke using a training pistol.
Creating a safe environment at your place of worship doesn’t have to be a time suck, or a waste of precious resources. However, taking some time to develop a plan, assess your parishioners and their equipment, and finding a way to connect with them to create a common goal will serve your flock well in the event of a tragedy.