Guns on a table. Photo courtesy of Rod Waddington via Flickr.

Texas churches weigh putting armed volunteers in the pews

A bouquet of flowers lies at the base of a roadblock where law enforcement officials work Nov. 6, 2017, at the scene of a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man opened fire inside the church in the small South Texas community on Sunday, killing and wounding many. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Only hours after First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs was ravaged by one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history on Sunday (Nov. 5), Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Fox News that "arming some of the parishioners or the congregation" could help stop similar attacks from occurring in the future.

A state law put into effect in September made it legal for churches to have armed volunteer guards — but the law's author says many churches in Texas don't know it's an option.

State Rep. Matt Rinaldi, R-Irving, said he was inspired to submit a bill to the Legislature after discovering that though existing law had allowed congregants with licenses to carry to bring firearms into houses of worship, they weren't allowed to conduct security functions.

"My wife and I were doing church security at the St. Anne’s carnival over by us, where unarmed security were looking for lost children and making sure everything was being run smoothly," he said. "And afterwards, I was looking at the occupational licensing laws looking to see which ones didn’t make sense, and I found out what we were doing and what the church was doing was illegal under current Texas law."

Rinaldi said churches would have either had to contract private security firms or obtain a $400 "letter of authority" from the state to create volunteer security teams.

"We’ve seen churches being targeted time and time again, and it doesn’t make sense that they can’t protect themselves without hiring private security, which a lot of small churches don’t have the funds to do," he said.

Rinaldi said that after the measure passed he notified every church in his district that they had the option for volunteer security.

"They were talking on Fox News as if [the bill] didn't [pass], so I think it’s important we get the word out that the law did change," he said.

While opponents of the law feared the law would lead to the creation of untrained militias to guard churches, Rinaldi said congregants still need licenses to carry in order to have guns in church.

"Before the law was passed, individuals in church could still carry, Rinaldi said. "What this allows the church to do, which I think is safer, is identify who those people are and coordinate so that everybody knows who’s providing security."

Gun regulation advocates, however, have argued that arming more people in churches will not deter future shooters. Gyl Switzer, executive director of Texas Gun Sense, said the data does not support the notion that an armed person could stop a mass shooting.

She added law enforcement officers often tell her organization that it can be difficult to determine who is the assailant during an attack when everyone has a gun.

"People should be safe and comfortable in their places of worship," Switzer said. "We do know that there are effective ways of reducing gun violence. ... Definitely not arming more folks."

(This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at



  1. Perhaps the folks could move their church to a state with fewer guns per person and tougher background checks. Those states have many fewer homicides per person. That way they won’t need armed guards. Problem solved.

  2. I wonder if the Sermon on the Mount had armed security? Maybe someone packing heat in the Garden of Gethsemane…and Jesus wouldn’t have been hauled away.

  3. Or better yet, some realistic sensible thinking and not give out guns in Texas as easily as getting a carton of cigarettes. But much much harder than obtaining an abortion.

  4. Put armed volunteers in the pews instead of doing something about gun control.

    And pray that one of them didn’t have a really bad night.

  5. Because it’s not part of his master plan

    is what “they”‘ll claim.

    Incidentally, this so-called master plan is indistinguishable from random chaos.

  6. Not going to work. Lotta smaller and less-affluent churches out there, they can’t even afford to move two blocks down (let alone cross state lines).

  7. How about peop0le just pray right when the service begins: “please, God. Don’t let my family get murdered today.”
    We could really prove the power of prayer and of the god they pray to.

  8. Actually, Jesus allowed Himself to be “hauled away.” But first He made perfectly clear, to both friends and foes, exactly Who was in control of the situation. John 18:4-6 says:

    “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” (And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them.)
    Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

    Three little words, and the ENTIRE arresting mob hits the dirt. Now THAT’s “packing.”

    Of course, the disciple Peter wanted in. He figured it’s okay to whip out a sword and chop off an ear. But Jesus simply tells Peter to put away his sword; he’s only getting in the way of the mission Jesus already told him about. And for good measure, Jesus perfectly, instantanously re-attaches the victim’s ear (Luke 22: 47-50). An unforgettable moment.

    Anyway, I’m sorry for the delay, I intend to discuss that Aussie gun-control gig today. (But I like talking about the Lord Jesus Christ anyway, so I’m doing this reply first.)

  9. I’ll be talking with Damien P soon about gun control, since he was the first (maybe the only) poster to give specifics.

    Meanwhile there were armed security folks at the funeral(s) of the Charleston victims, and it’s a pretty good bet that the first white atheist who pulls a gun within **those** four walls again, during ANY service for any reason, is a dead man.

    Black/brown churches aren’t really participating in this “security” debate. But it’s no secret that, at least in the larger black churches and ministries, you might have a very hard time of it, if you attempt an armed attack.

    The fact is that you’ve brazenly “showed out in front of God” anyway, so it ain’t OUR fault if you accidentally die of CCW-itis (or even an old church mother’s knitting needles that accidentally fell outta her purse) while we’re praying for you. “Accidents will happen,” ya know.

  10. So basically, you’re saying Jesus didn’t “stand his ground”…like the NRA says we should do.

  11. Anybody who can say three words and an entire armed mob falls down like dominoes, that Person has already “stood his ground”, although I don’t know how the NRA would interpret the event.

  12. Okay, let’s try this. Damien, when you were asked for specifics, you graciously (and specifically) replied:

    In Australia about 20 years ago, there was a horrible massacre in Tasmania…35 people were shot dead and many more wounded. Australia banned handguns and semiautomatic weapons and bought back all guns that were not specifically bolt-action hunting rifles or sport shotguns. Australia has not had another mass shooting since then. Suicides down too!

    Now your pals around here, they are apparently not able to get down to gun-control specifics. But YOU can, so l’ll do a reply here. (As you know, the Aussie gig was Obama’s favorite answer too.)

    The $10,000 question is, Would the Aussie gig work here in America? Unfortunately, there’s only one real answer: “Nope.”

    Why not? Long story short, reasons include (1) The Constitution, (2) The 2nd Amendment (which the Aussies do not have), (3) The USSC struck down Washington DC’s ban on handguns, and it was definitive, (4) Sometimes gun owners use their guns to stop crime and tragedy, and the general public already know and accept it. (5) Suicides were already trending downward in Australia BEFORE their gun ban. (6) Most Americans simply use their Gun-Buyback money to buy newer guns. (Gotta love that Lars Grizzly 50cal. Shave a mustache clean off a mosquito, a mile away!)

    So there’s a lot there. It’s clear that the Aussie gig won’t work in America. Meanwhile, recently, a handgun owner catches crook beating policeman to death in broad daylight, tells the crook to stop, crook refuses, owner gets gun, asks again, crook says no again, so Handgun owner solves problem; saves policeman’s life.
    Another handgun owner in another city catches woman being raped in broad daylight, nobody helping her, so handgun owner decides to support women’s rights; sends rapist to hell; saves woman. What do you think about all this?

  13. Wrong article…that Australia post was days ago…

    …But, it would work just fine in the US…here is the pro-life approach: Australia does not have a total ban on all guns. There were 15 clips from an AR-15 left behind in that Texas church along with the kids that had their heads blown off — Liberty is great isn’t it.

    No more massacres when maniacs can’t get that type of weapon or ammo…Australia, Europe, Canada prove it! Gun control means more freedom not less…Unless your version of liberty is Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs — where close to hundred, including infants and old ladies had their bodies ripped to pieces by a weapon of war at close range. Lecture us all about pro-life again.

  14. You mention Australia, Europe, Canada. But I read that Japan and South Korea are ALSO super-strict on gun control — yet it ain’t working for them. In fact, in Europe, it looks like the mass killers can wipe out as many folks with trucks as with guns.

    Now maybe you’re advocating for an AR-15 ban instead of an Aussie regular-handgun and semi-auto handgun ban, which I think we can both agree is totally just Not-Gonna-Happen in America, for the above reasons.

    (It’s not my job to talk people out of advocating gun-control, by the way. I’m just asking about what specifics is gonna work in America. The Aussie specifics, aren’t going to work in America.

    Afterthoughts: In the Virginia Tech mass shooting, the shooter didn’t use any AR-15’s. At Ohio State, the attempted-mass killer didn’t even have a gun. Just a good car and butcher knife. In NYC recently, a mass killer rented a Home-Depot truck, of all things.)

  15. Yeah, same amount of deaths in Texas or Las Vegas if the guy had a Home Depot rental truck.

  16. I don’t know if it would be the exact same number. Maybe not maybe so. But it could obviously still be a big number. Again, guns aren’t even needed to get big casualty numbers. No guns needed at the Boston Marathon. Simple farm fertilizer sufficed for Oklahoma City bombing. 9-11 was carried out with nothing but PLASTIC knives.

    But that brings up yet another reason why the Aussie gun-control thing won’t work here: There are people out there, even intelligent **atheists** out there, who simply say “It doesn’t matter what your laws say, doesn’t matter what your God says, I’m gonna do what I wanna do, and I’ll obtain my tools no matter what.”

    The Sutherland shooter already was legally banned from guns. Didn’t make any difference. Can’t buy on the Internet? Welcome to the Deep Web and Dark Web. You got the money, we got your disease. Our government IS doing their best on this gun-control matter, but that’s all they can do.

  17. It would have worked here and in Las Vegas.

    The shooter in Texas bought his gun from a store:
    -had a criminal record
    -had a record of domestic violence
    -Listed an out of state address on the background check form
    -Didn’t require any kind of registration or paperwork to be filed for the purchase.

    The shooter in Vegas bought 47 guns in a rather short period of time. What should have raised red flags for anyone without a firearms sales license.

    In NYC and NJ there are strict gun control laws. NY has state wide assault weapons regulations. There has not been a mass murder shooting since those regulations have been in effect. So effective that mass murdering types had to use rental vehicles or poorly made improvised explosives.

  18. Peter was packing heat in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Put away your sword,” Jesus told him. “Those who use the sword will die by the sword. Matthew 26:52

  19. Not bloody likely in either situation.

    The Texas church was not in an enclosed area like a city street where you could get 20+ people packed into a tight area.

    The Las Vegas area in that incident was closed off to traffic access.

  20. Sarcasm, floydlee. The fact remains that in states with fewer guns there are fewer shootings.

  21. Some simple guidelines for understanding and behavior can help deal with such matters. Start by understanding that you can’t outwit crazy, because it’s crazy. It follows that you do best by staying away from people wearing spikey hats. When it comes to guns, remember that guns are not a defense against bullets, and in a gunfight, whoever shoots first is most likely to survive. The best choice is to stay away from them as much as possible.

  22. But they WERE “packing heat”. One of Jesus’ disciples cut off someone’s ear with a sword. Why all-of-the-sudden his disciples are armed with SWORDS is never explained (and would be highly unlikely from an historical perspective), but Jesus is quoted as saying “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

    How this gets translated into “bring your gat to church” is beyond me. But I’m an atheist and I’ve long given up trying to figure out the modern Christian mind-set.

  23. What about Chicago? They have tough gun aws but is one of the most dangerous cities in the country.

    What about Baltimore? They also have tough gun laws but they are also one of the most dangerous cities.

    Then you have Hawaii which has the lowest amount of gun violence in the country but 45% if adult males reported having a gun the 10th highest in the country.

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