FEBRUARY 15, 2024

Guest Shot: God, Guns, & Guts: What It Takes to Protect Houses of Worship

Once more we have witnessed a murderous attack at a house of worship, this time at the famous Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Thanks to the quick action of off-duty law enforcement, acting as church security, only the attacker is deceased as of press time. The child she was using as a shield (her child) is in critical condition as these words are typed.

Having scrolled through numerous news stories in preparation for this piece, every single journalist missed the opportunity to drive home the primary lesson or learning point from this incident and that is: only those present at the moment of the attack will be able to stop or minimize the death and destruction.

Add the Lakewood Church assault to the one in White Settlement, Texas and the Greenwood, Indiana Mall attack as examples of armed citizens stopping would-be mass murderers. These incidents fly in the face of those who will tell you that “guns are not the answer” because you can call 9-1-1.

9-1-1 is a Death Sentence

As witnessed at Columbine High School, in Parkland Florida, and Uvalde, Texas, the advice to call 9-1-1 and wait for the police to show up is a literal death sentence when a monster intent of committing a mass murder is present. Every time the “Just call 9-1-1” advice is taken, innocent people die needlessly.

When an armed killer; hatchet, machete, or gun, enters a public place with the intent of maiming or killing as many innocent people as possible, we need to view the 9-1-1 system as “too little, too late.” The people who are dispatched will be tasked with the cleanup, not stopping the attack from taking place.

A five-minute response time, which is fast, is still far too long to prevent mass murder unless the people who are present the moment the attack begins take action to stop it. Opinions about guns or gun owners be damned, that facts remain and numerous real-world examples bear them up.

Security is More than Having a Gun

When asked whether their church had a security program, an acquaintance stated, “Well, they allow people who have carry permits to carry in church.” Folks, guns are effective tools for stopping homicidal maniacs, but having a gun in your pocket does not make you security.

I have also had people tell me “We have a few cops in our congregation and they carry off-duty.” Possessing a firearm and having the skill to use it effectively on demand are both important, but those are just a part of the equation.

You and your brain are the operating system for your firearm. In the previous scenario, a person with a CCW permit sitting in the third pew with his back to the main entrance is not going to have much hope of stopping a maniac who walks into the sanctuary and indiscriminately opens fire on parishioners.

Organized Church/Synagogue Security

Training for church security requires classroom work, “walking the ground” on the physical premises and work on the range


A true or genuine Church/Synagogue Security program must be deliberately organized and coordinated to have any hope of being an effective deterrent or solution to an attack on the innocent people inside.

We cannot just expect that off-duty police officers or CCW permit holders who happen to be members of the flock are going to assume the mantle of security just because we would like them to do so. Security must be deliberate and purposeful, not an afterthought, if it is going to be of any use.

Through Student of the Gun University, I developed the Legion of Michael Church Security training program several years ago. There is also a companion book with the Legion of Michael name. I took a lifetime of experience providing executive protection and put that knowledge into the course.

In addition to addressing the carrying of firearms and training with such, we dive into subjects such as the importance of observation or being a trained observer, communication and teamwork, less-than-lethal use of force, how to select team members, and developing SOPs.

Just as importantly, we spend time considering the biblical and historical justification and support for the use of deadly force in the defense of innocent life. Contrary to some opinions, it is not a sin to use a firearm to defend your congregation from a murderous lunatic.

Not About Money

When the topic of church or synagogue security comes up, one of the first areas that people will go to is money. “We’re a small congregation, we cannot afford a security team.” Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church has lots of money and we have seen that they spend some of it by hiring off-duty cops to act as security. That’s fine.

Nonetheless, the financial investment to create a well-functioning and effective church security team is relatively small. What is most important is the investment of time and energy by faithful members of the congregation. After the initial training and education, the primary cost encountered will be radios and perhaps surveillance cameras (cameras do NOT provide security, ergo the term “security camera” is a misnomer).

Our churches should not need mercenary security teams and I would argue that dedicated volunteer members of the congregation would be best suited to address the security needs of the facility after they have received training and become organized. That statement that police officers are better trained and equipped to be security is complete sophistry.

Refusal to Accept Reality

Given all the previous statements; the demonstrated factual reality that calling 9-1-1 and waiting is the worst possible way to deal with a murderous attack at a church, why are there still houses of worship who refuse to create security teams? Cognitive dissonance could be to blame.

Yes, it is true that we would all rather return to a world where church security teams are not necessary. That would be great, but that is not reality. Reality dictates that we have allowed evil men and women to grow and flourish in our nation. Many of our churches have become apathetic to sin and the sinful behavior of our society.

Whether you like the idea of people carrying guns in church or not, that does not alter the reality that evil creatures are regularly targeting our houses of worship to carry out the business of Satan. You can either accept that as the reality of this world or you can ignore it.

The information, education, and training to organize and coordinate an effective church security team is available. Whether or not you take advantage of it is a matter of free will.

Paul G. Markel is the founder of Student of the Gun University and has been teaching Small Arms & Tactics to military personnel, police officers, and citizens for over three decades. He is the author of numerous books and is a combat decorated United States Marine veteran.