Pastor says he will now carry handgun when he preaches

Church shooting spurs safety response

A Texas pastor says he will now carry a handgun when he preaches behind the pulpit.

"This was not supposed to happen," Pastor Jaime Chapa of El Faro Bible Church in Sullivan City, Texas said, reacting to news updates of a shooting that took the lives of 26 people at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

"There will be three armed (licensed) persons at all times at every service," he said of his own church services. "Nobody needs to know who they are, but, our church will be protected." 

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His congregation has a similar amount of members as FBC of Sutherland Springs did — about 50 people.

Paid security guards are financially not possible at the small church. Chapa, who has been a pastor at the church for 30 years, said it's his responsibility to protect the people who attend.

In North Carolina, First Christian Church in Kernersville assembled a security team a decade ago. The church also invested in security cameras, taking the safety precautions out of fears of attacks similar to what happened in Texas on Nov. 5.

Kernersville police also patrol the parking lot and offers extra security for all churches during Sunday worship times, according to a report by WGHP in North Carolina.

SheepdogChurchSecurity.net offers courses for churches seeking to put safety measures in place, and says on its website churches should do a facilities assessment to avoid being "soft targets." To "harden the target," churches need to assess entry points, making it harder for a potential shooter to go unnoticed.

Some of the questions churches should ask:

• Are there barriers preventing vehicles from smashing through windows?

• Is the church locked when no one is inside?

• Is there more than one employee inside when the church is open, and are they aware of each others' presence?

• Can window latches be bypassed (hinges easily removed)?

• Are there people designated to keep an eye on who is entering and exiting each access point?

• Are outlying buildings such as detached garages secured and routinely checked?

• Does your church have an emergency response plan that is known to leaders?

Many websites with information on church security say churches need to check with insurance providers to see if they offer emergency plans for religious organizations and their facilities. Response plans should be enacted not just for shootings but for severe weather, health emergencies and any sort of unplanned evacuations.

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