The mass shooting in a Texas church has worship centers everywhere wondering how to prevent or defend against an active shooter. Some local police departments are actually giving training to churches called Worship Watch to help them guard against all kinds of crimes, including shootings.
One church in Woodbridge has come up with its own plan: allowing members who have military or law-enforcement training to carry concealed weapons, if they have permits to do so.
"You can't plan for this because you don't know how it could happen, but you plan in a way that you have people who are prepared to act," said Rev. Daniel Morgan, the Rector of All Saints' Church.
He said they're blessed to have several members trained to respond to an active shooting.
"We live in a military community. And so, we have people who are prepared to act if anything should go on. They have their eyes open. For the most part, you wouldn't know. And they're oftentimes our ushers and greeters—people who are doing other things on Sunday mornings and at events. They just blend right in to what's going on," said Morgan.
The church’s security team took the Worship Watch training offered by Prince William County Police.
"Most of the training is kind of geared towards more property crime-related issues that we know the churches face more often than active violence. But we do cover active violence," said Sgt. Jonathan Perok with Prince William Co. Police.
The training involves showing the controversial video Run Hide Fight, which explains your options during an active shooting situation.
"If you can get away from the situation, that's your best bet. If you can get out, go. If you can't, your best bet is to hide. And then, when all else's fails, and you're at that moment that this is life or death, you got to fight," said Sgt. Perok.
The department does not take a stand on whether churches should have concealed permit holders bring guns during services, but Rector Morgan believes it's part of a good plan.
"Just like we never want to have a fire. I think churches need to take a precaution that they never thought they would have to, but it doesn't have to become a spirit of fear," said Morgan. It's about being prepared, he said. And, they are careful who they allow to carry a gun.
"I trust the people who have been trained. You wouldn't want your average sort of Saturday shooter to bring their gun to church," Morgan said.
Virginia is an open carry state, which means you can carry a gun in public, except for in schools and courthouses. It's up to private venues whether it’s allowed. Rector Morgan doesn't want open carrying in church. He thinks that would make people uncomfortable.
The Prince William Co. Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit is hosting a Worship Watch training for faith-based organizations on Tuesday, Nov. 21, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Paul T. White, Jr. Western District Station, 8900 Freedom Center Blvd., in Manassas. It's open to all faith-based organizations. However, seats are limited, so RSVPs are requested. The police department is asking for an RSVP by Nov. 14. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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