Congregants carrying guns in church isn’t completely unheard of, but neither is it so common a sight as to go unremarked. For one congregation, though, it will be a regular occurrence within the year, if the pastor’s plans are carried out.
Since the mass murder carried out in a church in Charleston, S.C., in June, there has been an increased concern about the safety of parishioners, particularly those in predominantly black congregations. A number of politicians and Second Amendment advocates have spoken of placing armed officers in churches — in some cases, as Fox 10 Phoenix reports, whether they wanted them or not.
In this case, however, according to NBC, the Washington Missionary Baptist Church in Shelby, North Carolina, is arming the congregation by choice. Pastor Melvin Clark says that rather than have individuals take matters into their own hands, and carry guns to church to feel safe, whether or not they’re trained in the use, he’ll have ten members of his congregation trained, through a police training program or a local community college program. These members will be armed, and act as plainclothes security guards for the church on a rotating schedule.
He told TWC News he’ll have the ten church members licensed and insured, as well as trained, and that he’ll plan the specifics in conjunction with local police and other pastors. If all goes as he plans, he’ll have guns in the hands of trained church members inside a year.
The church already takes a number of security measures, with cameras on the entrances and a buzzer to let visitors in, but Clark’s focus on security isn’t exactly unfounded. Aside from being only a few hours away from the church where nine members were shot and killed this summer, and from a general flurry of KKK recruitment, marches, and activity in the Carolinas since the massacre, Clark himself has previously been targeted, in his church. According to Fox Insider, in 2002, a man with a gun entered the church and held Clark hostage. He believes appropriate security measures could help prevent a recurrence of such an event.
Whether or not a weapon should ever enter a church has been in much debate over the last few months, but Washington Missionary Baptist is taking the position that if there will be guns in church, they should be in the hands of those trained to use them in a professional manner, and the Reverend Clark is working to ensure that.