Two attacks tied to religion in a single week is troubling for anyone. The attack at a Hannukah party in New York was just the latest in a string of anti-Semitic attacks in the state. It was then followed up by the White Settlement church shooting on Sunday. The two events together, though, have a lot of people thinking about security for their houses of worship.
That’s not a bad thing at all.
However, a report on the topic by NBC News highlights the very different approaches to church and synagogue security.
A shooting at a church in Texas and a stabbing at a rabbi’s home during a Hanukkah celebration in New York over the weekend have renewed calls for increased security and the right to be armed in places of worship.
In Texas, a gunman killed two people before a volunteer armed security team shot and killed him in the church near Fort Worth on Sunday. That led Texas politicians to praise a recent law that allowed guns to be carried in places of worship.
The issue of whether worshipers should be armed breaks along the usual fault lines in the wider debate on gun laws. Supporters of gun control legislation say the better solution is to reduce gun ownership, rather than to invite weapons of death into the pews. But in Texas, which has a strong gun culture, Republicans seized on the shooting Sunday as proof of their long-held belief that more trained gun owners can prevent casualties during mass attacks.
That’s not really surprising, to be fair. As we’ve seen, the takeaway from Sunday’s attack has been even more partisan than usual, with anti-gunners routinely ignoring the fact that good people with guns ended the attack.
However, others clearly get it.
Patrick Brosnan, founder of the security firm Brosnan Risk Consultants, praised the congregants who fought back.
“You have to look this evil in the face,” he said. “You have to step up. There’s not enough law enforcement out there.”
Carl Chinn, founder of the Faith Based Security Network, a nonprofit that offers safety guidance to faith communities, said the incidents showed the importance of volunteer security teams at places of worship in a time of increased attacks.
Chinn said he knows of more than 1,000 volunteer-run security teams in houses of worship in the United States.
“If I could say one thing to churches, it is this — have an intentional program,” he said.
That’s probably good advice, though not every state allows churches to have that kind of option. More shockingly, though, some people don’t want it.
But Laura Cutilletta, managing director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said allowing easier access to guns in places of worship and armed congregants would be “very short-sighted.”
“If we didn’t have so many guns so readily available, we wouldn’t even have this problem in the first place,” she said. “Though it’s very fortunate people’s lives were saved in these instances, 100 people die every single day in America by gun violence, and that is the highest gun death rate of any high-income country.”
Look, I get it. While some of the New York Jewish population are asking Governor Cuomo to use the National Guard to provide security, others of us are looking to ourselves for that security.
What I don’t get, however, is just how in the hell anyone can look at what happened at these two events and somehow come to the conclusion that guns don’t save lives.
Ms. Cutilletta wants to argue that 100 people die from “gun violence,” does she? Maybe she should point out that two-thirds of those are people taking their own life. Maybe she should also recognize that 2.5 million people defend their lives with guns every year. That’s over 6,800 per day, or 68 times as many as who are killed with a gun including those who take their own life.
The truth of the matter is that we’ve seen gun control fail to prevent mass violence over and over again. What we’ve also seen is a good guy with a gun stop a mass shooting in progress.
If you want to take security seriously in your house of worship, you’d better push to make sure you have armed people in the congregation.