December attack at Texas church draws attention to Ohio ban on concealed carry in places of worship
On November 5, 2017, a deranged man entered First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX and began shooting. He was able to kill 26 and wound more before a citizen, armed with an AR-15, responded to the sound of gunfire and stopped the killing. While we will always be grateful for the responding citizen, the heavy loss suffered by that congregation left many to wonder how things might have been different had the chuch installed a safety plan to protect their flock.
When another attacker began shooting in another Texas church on December 29, 2019, the comparisons were inevitable. This time, however, a plan implemented by the church - West Freeway Church of Christ near Fort Worth - was quickly put into action. When the killer began his attack, one safety team member was killed while attempting to draw his firearm. As the killer turned and shot another victim, a second safety team member took aim and fired, striking the attacker in the head and ending the attack. It was all over in six seconds.
The difference between waiting for help to come, and having good guys with guns on hand to respond immediately, was on display for the world to see, quite literally, because the entire incident was captured on video.
According to CNN, both of the men targeted by the killer were part of the security team. The team had reportedly identified the man as a potential threat, which is why several team members were in close proximity.
Jack Wilson, the safety team's leader and man who stopped the killer, is a former reserve deputy sheriff and a firearms instructor.
At a news conference following the shooting, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said of Paxton: "He's not just responsible for his actions, which ultimately saved the lives of maybe hundreds of people, but he's also responsible for training hundreds in that church."
Not only were gun rights advocates proven right in their assertions that having good guys with guns present when an attack begins saves lives, gun control extremists' claims were also proven wrong:
For example, several armed people can be seen in the video. Having multiple armed "good guys" did not lead to errant shots, collateral damage, or misidentified "good guys" being fired upon.
Additionally, CNN has reported that the criminal justice system missed an opportunity to flag the attacker as a prohibited person, allowing a previous charge for felony aggravated assault with a deadly weapon to be pled down to a misdemeanor. A 'red flag' law would not have stopped the attack.
Partly in response to the 2017 Sutherland Springs murders, and much to the dismay of gun control extremists, earlier this year the Texas legislature passed a bll which clarified that concealed carry in places of worship is legal. Gun control groups such as Texas Gun Sense blasted the move for making "communities less safe." The congregation at West Freeway Church of Christ clearly begs to differ.
Here is the simple truth:
NO ONE disagrees that a good guy with a gun is needed to end such an attack. This is proved by the fact that even the most ardent anti-gun rights extremist will call 911 when in danger. When they dial 911, they admit what we already know - a good person with a gun is needed to end the violence.
The only real debate, then, is how long the victims should have to wait for an armed responder to arrive. Gun ban extremists believe victims should have to wait five, ten, twenty minutes or even longer. Pro-self-defense advocates believe the ability to respond to a violent threat should be immediate - just as it was at West Freeway Church of Christ.
This is't even the first time this point has been proven. Both ideas have also been tried in South Carolina churches, and the results couldn't be more stark.
In an attack on a Charleston church in 2015, the gun ban extremists' idea was tried. The result was nine dead victims.
In Spartanburg, however, the self-defense advocates' idea was tried, with much different results. In a 2012 incident, a churchgoer was credited with saving the lives of fellow worshipers after a man kicked in the door of their church and leveled a shotgun. No one was injured. Sheriff Chuck Wright was quoted as saying "we're very fortunate we didn't have gruesome scenes to work there. I like the fact that a concealed weapons permit holder was prepared to protect the worshippers."
The issue of security in places of worship has been near and dear to my heart for as long as Ohio's concealed carry law has been in place. That's because, whereas all other private property owners in the State of Ohio must choose if they want to ban legal concealed carry on their property, when it comes to places of worship, legislators chose for them. (Apparently the myth known as a First Amendment separation of church and state only applies when they want it to.)
In Ohio, if a church member with a concealed handgun license brings their firearm to church as a means of protection against attack, the law calls for her to be arrested and charged with a felony of the fourth degree, and a conviction would earn her up to $5000 in fines and 18 months in prison. Worshippers in our neighboring states of Indiana, Kentucky and Pennsylvania labor under no such restrictions to their First and Second Amendment liberties. (Apparently equal protection under the law also only applies when the powers-that-be want it to.)
Those who are more familiar with Ohio law are probably already preparing their emails to me, wishing to remind me that the Buckeye State does offer an exception to its ban on concealed carry in places of worship for those who are able to obtain permission from the proper church/synagogue/mosque authority. But the vast majority of people I know who have attempted to obtain this permission over the years have been refused.
These denials can come for a variety of reasons, including theological ones. I'm quite familiar with that line of thinking, having been raised in a Mennonite church, and with pacifism being one of the cornerstones of that denomination.
As I grew into my Christian faith as a young adult, I carefully studied this issue, and came to believe there is strong Biblical support for bearing arms for self-defense. (For more in this subject, I recommend firearms researcher Dave Kopel's "Is the Best Defense a Good Book?" as well as the online publication entitled "The Bible and Gun Control", and more specifically Essay 2, entitled "The Bible and Guns in America". For a good book on the subject, I recommend, "Evil Invades Sanctuary: The Case for Security in Faith-Based Organizations" by Carl Chinn and "To Keep or Not to Keep" - Why Christians Should not Give Up their Guns" by Timothy Baldwin, J.D. & Charles O. "Chuck" Baldwin, D.D.
In places where theology is not a part of the equation, I've found that many have received denials because their church leaders are laboring under the mistaken impression that their insurance rates will go up. I put that myth to rest in a piece entitled "CCW in places of worship? No more 'our insurance guy says no' excuse."
At the end of the day, though, the problem lies with the Ohio legislature. Republicans - who love to campaign on their pro-gun rights virtues - have been in charge of the entire Ohio General Assembly for thirteen of the past fifteen years since concealed carry became law in Ohio. Bills have been introduced in several sessions to remove places of worship from the list of "no-guns" victim zones, but the bills have not been allowed a vote.
This year, not even one of the many pro-gun bills being considered seeks to address the problem of mandating places of worship as "no-guns" victim zones.
In 2015, Rep. Ron Maag (R-Lebanon) introduced a bill which sought to remove places of worship from the list of "no-guns" victim zones. Just two weeks before the shooting in Charleston mentioned earlier, the Republican-led House State Government committee adopted substitute language which stripped the fix for places of worship from the bill.
How did it get this bad in the Buckeye State, where, once upon a time, Ohio law encouraged citizens to bear arms at church services? Will it take a church massacre 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
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
In 1859, a law banning the carrying of concealed weapons was adopted by state legislators in Ohio. 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.
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.
I've also been told the Catholic Church is a reason Rep. Maag's 2015 bill was amended to remove a fix for places of worship.
The roots of Ohio's anti-gun alliances can also be traced to these same sorts of religious groups.
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).
- Living Church of God in Wisconsin (2005, seven killed).
- The Ministry of Jesus Christ in Louisiana (2006, five killed)
- Youth With A Mission and New Life Church in Colorado (2007, four killed.
- Emanuel A.M.E. Church in South Carolina (2015, nine killed).
- First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas (2017, 26 killed).
After each new multiple victim public shooting, gun rights advocates point out that nearly every shooting occurs 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, a high school in Pearl, Mississippi, New Life Church, and, as mentioned earlier, Boiling Springs' South Side Freewill Baptist Church near Spartanburg, SC.
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 preached in Tennessee recognized that large amounts of cash in the building on any given Sunday was an attractive target, and encouraged 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. 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.
- Ask the leaders in your place of worship if you and fellow CHL-holders can be a part of a ''security guard ministry''.
- Tell your legislators that places of worship shouldn't be listed among the places where persons with murderous intent can take a gun, having full assurance that their intended victims have been disarmed by Ohio law. It isn't too late. I believe the language correcting Ohio law for concealed carry in places of worship should be added to one of the many pro-gun bills in a House or Senate committee, or on the floor if need be.
- 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 served as Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary from 2013-2019. He is co-founder of BFA-PAC, and served as its Vice Chairman for 15 years. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website, and is also an NRA-certified firearms instructor.
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 "Does YOUR place of worship have a "security guard ministry"?", Chad D. Baus, March 15, 2005, http://www.buckeyefirearms.org/node/2311