Churchgoer with concealed carry permit stops man with shotgun

by Chad D. Baus

A churchgoer near Spartanburg, SC is being credited with saving the lives of fellow worshipers after a man kicked in the door of their church and leveled a shotgun. In Ohio, the man who is being called an "everyday hero" might have been arrested.

From the Spartanburg Herald-Journal:

The Rev. Henry Guyton, pastor of the church, said Jesse Gates, who has attended worship services at the church on Upper Valley Falls Road as recently as Wednesday, came to the door about 10 a.m. on Sunday.

"He came in before the service and acted like he was having a heart attack," Guyton, 71, said. "He asked us to call Channel 7 news. I called 911 instead."

Sheriff Chuck Wright said deputies and Spartanburg EMS arrived, and checked out Gates, and Gates left.

About 11:20 a.m., Jesse Gates returned to the church. The Rev. Guyton's grandson, Aaron Guyton, 26, was in the recreation building separate from the church and saw Gates get a shotgun from the trunk of his car.

"At that point, I knew I had to do something," Aaron Guyton said. "I wanted to try to contain him outside."

Aaron Guyton went into the main building and locked the doors.

Henry Guyton said he was in the pulpit, preaching about how Jesus spoke the word of God and healed the sick, when Gates kicked open the side door of the sanctuary and entered with the shotgun, pointing it at the pastor and congregation.

Church members, including Aaron Guyton, a concealed weapons permit holder, acted quickly.

The article goes on to say that Aaron Guyton held Gates at gunpoint, as church members Jesse Smith and Leland Powers held him on the floor and waited for deputies to arrive. The Rev. Guyton said he stepped onto a chair, climbed down a 3-foot bannister surrounding the pulpit and took the shotgun from Jesse Gates.

"The gun was loaded," Henry Guyton said. "I said, 'Jesse, what did you do it for?' He said, 'They took my children and won't let me see them.' I'm glad the Lord took care of everything. The police did a good job too."

No shots were fired and no one was injured, according to deputies.

During a news conference Sunday, Wright called Aaron and Henry Guyton, Jesse Smith and Leland Powers "everyday heroes."

Gates, 38, has been charged with second-degree burglary (violent), disturbing a place of worship, kidnapping and three counts of pointing and presenting a firearm, Wright said. Arrest warrants state that Jesse Gates pointed the shotgun at Smith, Henry Guyton and Powers, and that he intended to kidnap the pastor.

Gates' sister, Angela Michelle Gates, 34, has been charged with accessory before the fact of a felony. Wright said Angela Gates went to the church with her brother and provided him with the shotgun he used during the incident.

Both siblings live at 115 Falcon Ridge Road, Boiling Springs, with their mother, Lt. Tony Ivey said.

Gates also had a hunting knife in his possession when he entered the church. Ivey said he was charged with violent burglary because he entered the building with deadly weapons.

Wright said that while Angela Gates has no prior criminal record, Jesse Gates' criminal history includes numerous convictions for burglary, grand larceny and forgery. He is a convicted felon and prohibited from having a gun or ammunition.

During a news conference Sunday, Sheriff Wright commended Aaron Guyton for having a concealed weapons permit.

"We're very fortunate we didn't have gruesome scenes to work there," Wright is quoted as saying. "I like the fact that a concealed weapons permit holder was prepared to protect the worshippers."

Wright made national headlines in October when a man attacked a woman at Milliken Park during the day, urging residents to obtain concealed weapons permits and arm themselves. Earlier this year, Wright praised a concealed weapons permit holder who shot and killed a would-be robber at a Waffle House on Chesnee Highway.

"I hope the bad guys are watching, because we are tired of your nonsense," Wright said. "People are simply protecting their families. Prepare yourselves, ladies and gentlemen."

The Herald-Journal quotes Rev. Guyton's wife, Joyce, 70, as saying she remained calm through the incident, even as Gates pointed the shotgun at her husband in the pulpit.

"He said, 'Come out of the pulpit,'" Joyce Guyton said. "He said it three times. He scared some of the members to death. Some of them crawled under the benches and chairs. I don't know if he was drugged or what was wrong with him, but he was bad."

Joyce Guyton said Gates had been attending services at Southside for about the past month, and church members remember him there from many years ago when he was a child.

"He told me he had just gotten out of prison for stealing," Joyce Guyton said.

She says Gates didn't ask for help.

"We help people who need help," Joyce Guyton said. "We've helped a lot of families over there. They've never come back with a gun."

Aaron Guyton said he's had a concealed weapons permit since 2009, and usually keeps his gun in the car during church. But after Gates showed up at the church the first time, Aaron Guyton said he decided to keep the gun in his back pocket the rest of the morning. He says he couldn't believe he almost had to use his gun inside the church he's attended all of his life. But he says he would have shot Gates to protect his grandparents, 8-year-old sister and 7-week-old cousin if his grandfather, whom he calls “Pops,” hadn't been able to jerk the shotgun out of Gates' hand.

"Once we got him (Gates) on the ground, he was begging forgiveness," Aaron Guyton said. "It was the first time I ever had to draw my weapon on someone."

But when asked if he felt like a hero, Aaron Guyton replied, "I feel like I done what needed to be done. If my grandfather hadn't grabbed the gun, I was going to take his (Gates') life. I'm very proud of my grandfather. He moves quick."

In South Carolina he is an "everyday hero" who prevented some "gruesome scenes."

In Ohio, on the other hand, if a church member with a concealed handgun license brings their firearm to church as a means of protection against such an attack, the law calls for him to be arrested and charged with a felony of the fourth degree, and a conviction would earn him up to $5000 in fines and 18 months in prison.

How did it get this bad in the Buckeye State, where, once upon a time, state law encouraged citizens to bear arms at church services?[1] Will it take a church massacre (or massacres) in Ohio before the Republicans controlling the General Assembly do anything about it?

Our ancestors viewed guns in Ohio churches in a MUCH different light

(Painting by George Henry Boughton (1833-1905), entitled "Pilgrims Going To Church" - note all the guns they're taking with them)

On July 25, 1788, the first Ohio law to establish and regulate a militia was published. It mandated all men between 16 and 50 perform military duty. They were required to arm themselves with a musket and bayonet, a cartridge box, powder horn, one pound of powder and four pounds of lead. They also were ordered to drill every Sunday.

In 1791, the law changed the day of the weekly drills to Saturday. Those those who attended church services - with their guns - were exempt from drill.

How far we have sunk in Ohio, from a day when all men were not only allowed, but required by law to own firearms. Back then, Ohio law recognized that an armed society was a safer society.

Notice that churches were not legislated as victim zones, but rather that the law gave citizens incentive not only to attend church, but to do so while armed.

Misguided religious leaders partly to blame for the change

The earliest Ohio statute regulating or prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons appears to have been passed in 1917.[2] And the historical record proves many of our nation's gun control laws were passed with incredibly racist overtones.

The same type of bigotry exists today among those who continue the fight to disarm law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves, their children, their spouses, their property, and their homeland. And unfortunately, as noted by firearms researcher Dave Kopel, some of this anti self-defense bigotry can be sourced to certain religious institutions.[3]

According to Kopel, churchgoers have the "pacifist-aggression of certain religious officials" to thank for their defenselessness. That's because when Congress was considering reforms of the federal Gun Control Act, the Presbyterian Church (USA), sent a representative to testify to the Senate against the reforms. The Church representative declared that his church "has resolved, in the context of gun control, that it is against the killing of anyone, anywhere for any reason."

Kopel also notes that The National Coalition to Ban Handguns (later renamed the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence) was, in effect, founded as a subsidiary of the Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church. And, Kopel discovered, Methodist publications tell women that they have a duty to submit to a rapist, rather than endanger the rapist by shooting him.

The roots of Ohio's anti-gun alliances can also be traced to these same sort of religious groups.[4]

I won't attempt to detail the strong Biblical support for bearing arms for self-defense here, but in addition to Kopel's article ("Is the Best Defense a Good Book?"), I highly recommend the online publication entitled "The Bible and Gun Control", and more specifically Essay 2, entitled "The Bible and Guns in America".[5]

Ohio law offers sheep attending places of worship to the wolves

Whether it be criminals in search of an easy mark, or terrorists in search of a place to inflict maximum damage, citizens who attend places of worship in Ohio have a reason for concern. Thanks to state law, CHL-holders are banned from attending worship services (or even entering the building) while armed, unless they have received special permission from church/synagogue/mosque officials. And obtaining this permission is exceedingly hard to obtain once the officials consult their uninformed, liability-conscious attorneys and insurance agents, who seem to labor under the false impression that an accident by an armed citizen is more likely than a violent attack by a crazed madman.

Every time I think about Ohio's prohibition on guns in places of worship, the names of congregations across the country echo through my mind:

  • Wedgewood Baptist Church in Texas (1999 - seven killed).[6]
  • Living Church of God in Wisconsin (2005, seven killed).[7]
  • The Ministry of Jesus Christ in Louisiana (2006, five killed)[8]
  • Youth With A Mission and New Life Church in Colorado. Four killed.[9]

The Solution

After each new multiple victim public shooting, gun rights advocates point out that nearly every shooting occurrs in a place where guns were banned, and predict that the death toll could have been far less had citizens been allowed their right to bear arms for self-defense in those locations.

There have been previous examples that prove this point - Appalachian Law School[10], a high school in Pearl, Mississippi[11], and New Life Church[12].

Many will recall that church leadership at New Life made a plan to allow their flock to protect themselves. Their plan included allowing armed church members to patrol the hallways. And after evil came knocking, that church's pastor told the world that had they not taken those measures, many, many more bodies would have been carried out of that church.

I know of another church that has taken similar measures. The church at which my late father-in-law pastored in Tennessee recognizes that large amounts of cash in the building on any given Sunday was an attractive target, and encourages ushers who had concealed handgun licenses to carry. No doubt at least some of those in the pews do the same, just as I did when I attended services there. The potential mass murderer or enterprising druggie hoping to steal thousands of dollars in tithe money will most certainly not be allowed to carry out his plan for mayhem in that place.

At most churches in Ohio, it is a different story altogether, despite the fact that research proves that at least 90% of multiple victim public shootings happen in places where guns are banned.[13] Yet legislators in Columbus have neither the wisdom nor foresight of the Colorado and Tennessee church leaders I just mentioned. This simply should not be.

ACT NOW: Ask the leaders in your place of worship if you and fellow CHL-holders can be a part of a ''security guard ministry''[14]. And tell your legislators that places of worship shouldn't be treated differently in the law than any other private property in the state of Ohio. Finally, please join me in praying that these decision-makers act to allow the flock their right to self-protection before the next wolf comes out of the woods.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

[1] "Soldiers fined 50 cents for lack of weaponry", Cincinnati Enquirer, July 25, 2003,

[2] Clayton Cramer, Proponent Testimony to Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee, March 22, 1995,

[3] "Is The Best Defense is a Good Book?", Dave Kopel, America's First Freedom, February 2007,

[4] "Exposed: Pulling back the curtain on the gun grabbers' Wizard of Toledo", Chad D. Baus, August 22, 2005,

[5] "The Bible and Gun Control", Essay 2 - "The Bible and Guns in America",

[6] "Terror in Texas", PBS's Online News Hour Report, September 16, 1999,

[7] "Church, Police Probe 7 Murders", CBS News, March 14, 2005,

[8] "Man Charged With Shooting 5 in La. Had Domestic Problems", FOX News, May 22, 2006,,2933,196369,00.html

[9] "Lone Gunman Killed Four in Colorado Church Shooting Sprees, Cops Say", FOX News, December 10, 2007,,2933,316322,00.html

[10] "Law School Shooter Pleads Guilty; Former Student Avoids Death Penalty in Deal on Va. Slayings", Washington Post, February 28, 2004,

[11] "Town tries to cope with school shooting", Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, October 11, 1997,

[12] "Lone Gunman Killed Four in Colorado Church Shooting Sprees, Cops Say", FOX News, December 10, 2007,,2933,316322,00.html

[12] "Multiple Victim Public Shootings, Bombings, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handgun Laws: Contrasting Private and Public Law Enforcement", John R. Lott and William M. Landes, University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 73,

[13] "Does YOUR place of worship have a "security guard ministry"?", Chad D. Baus, March 15, 2005,

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