Insights with Sticky Holsters
Carrying a Concealed Firearm in a Place of Worship
Written by: Eric Rice and Phil Ludos
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is the nation’s risk advisor and released a report in 2020 on the targeted violence against houses of worship (HoWs). This was a 10-year study from 2009-2019. In the 10 years there were 37 incidents of targeted violence in which 64 people died, and another 59 were injured.
Phil Ludos is a Vietnam Veteran, retired police chief, NRA Instructor, General Manager at Mobile Tactics and head of his church security team. Below he shares some of his insight into HoW Security Teams and concealed carry while attending religious services.
Some of the best research conducted and statistical information has been done by Carl Chinn, and has formed the baseline for the proliferation of HoW safety and security teams across the U.S. The question remains should you or can you carry in a HoW? Recently an armed HoW member was able to thwart a violent attack against a Texas HoW by returning fire and neutralizing the attacker with an extremely well placed head shot. But can you legally carry concealed in your HoW?
Many states prohibit firearms within the walls of HoWs. In Michigan, for example you may not carry without written permission of the Pastor or the ruling authority for the HoW, so it is important to check the state laws. Many HoWs have posted their HoWs as gun-free zones, which is also something to consider.
Depending on the size of the HoW and whether the HoW has a safety or security team one must consider some issues of carrying in HoW. Consider this scenario: You attend a large HoW with armed security where not everyone knows each other. During service there is an incident requiring an armed response. Will security know the difference between you and the bad guy? The last thing you want is to mistakenly get in a gunfight with the safety personnel. The best option would be to protect yourself and/or shield your family and allow the safety personnel to deal with the threat. I am not saying do not carry in HoW, but consider the best course of action, should there be an incident during the service.
Properly trained HoW safety personnel should be the primary responders. These responders should be trained and vetted personnel who operate from a formal policy and procedures manual. There should be mandatory training as well as required training that can be done online through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Some examples of these courses are response and profiling. Safety team members should be required to carry an extra magazine and the standardization of the types of firearms is important. With standard firearms and ammunition, security members can use each other’s equipment, similar to how the military uses the same weapons and all NATO forces use the same ammunition. Safety teams should have members with specified priority responsibilities such as armed personnel, first aid personnel, and unarmed persons who can assist with getting people to safety and rallying locations. There should also be cross training and alternates who can fill in if needed.
If I am not part of a HoW security team where should I sit and position myself? When entering the HoW try to seat yourself on the outside of a row. Never get locked into a row, as that will restrict your freedom of movement thus limiting your ability to maneuver to either tactically respond to the threat or to escort loved ones away from it. You should also carry a tourniquet and other medical supplies. An extra magazine for your pistol is a no brainer and provides you that additional insurance of having to engage multiple shooters. It is important to stay alert to those people who enter the HoW. Vigilance can help prevent problems by identifying suspicious activity and proactively dealing with it before it becomes an incident.
May your ability to worship never be threatened by violence and may you always train to be able to respond if needed. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – John 10:11
Phil made some excellent points and really highlights some of the complexities of carrying in a house of worship. Some undeniable facts are that these types of attacks are on the rise and show no signs of stopping anytime soon. Additionally the political culture, stigma and laws will continue to make it a more difficult decision on whether or not you should carry a personal firearm while attending religious services. Like many things in life that are complex, you as the individual will have to balance what is legal, morally and ethically right, your virtues and decide what consequences you can live based on the most likely and worst-case scenarios.
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,: for thou art with me; thy rod and staff they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
Please let us know your thoughts and some of your experiences in the comment section below.
Carry on and be safe.
 Mitigating Attacks on Houses of Worship: Security Guide, Dec 2020, US Dept. of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency: https://www.cisa.gov/sites/default/files/publications/Mitigating%20Attacks%20on%20Houses%20of%20Worship%20Security%20Guide_508_0_0.pdf
 FEMA Emergency Management Institute (EMI) Courrse: IS-907: Active Shooter: What Can You Do