After an increasing number of armed attacks on civilian targets (“soft targets”) many American organizations have decided to take responsibility for their safety in their own hands. One very specific category are churches, prayer rooms and congregations. They have chosen to go the most effective way. The police cannot be everywhere, all the time. And the only one who can stop the bad guy with the gun, is the good guy with the gun. So in an effort to deter attacks, many churches across the states have asked members of their congregations to carry their guns for church services.
We recently had the chance to speak with a member of a very large church in South Carolina. Shane Jones volunteers on the safety team along with several other members of the church.
Rozhovor v češtině si můžete přečíst zde: Rozhovor – Shane Jones: Dobrovolník ozbrojeného bezpečnostního týmu farnosti v Jižní Karolíně
Zbrojnice.com is a Czech language website that deals with practical, legal, cultural and social issues of civilian firearms ownership. This interview was conducted in English and thus you can read it also in original language version below.
Legislation on carrying of firearms in South Carolina churches
Hi, Shane, thank you very much for your time. First question, the most important. How did you became a guardian angel of you community? Were you asked or there was a call for such service?
My wife and I moved to South Carolina almost 4 years ago. The law here requires church members to have written permission from the pastor before you can carry your gun in services. When we started attending this church, I inquired about getting permission and was informed that the church already an active safety team in place. As a red blooded, gun loving American of course, I was interested.
How large is your church, please? I suppose that our European measures will be quite different than American.
We have about 3,000 people attending 3 different services every Sunday morning. We have multiple campuses. The main campus at a different location has closer to 10,000 every sunday.
Did it required some special conditions, like military or law enforcement background, some special training, to become a member of church security team, or just anybody trusted and responsible can take his part?
From a legal perspective, only the written permission is required. However our church has set up some minimal standards to be part of the team. All members must pass a shooting proficiency test. We use the same test the FBI uses to qualify. It’s not terribly difficult, but not easy either.
Framework of security volunteers’ activity
That’s very interesting. Do you personally have some military or law enforcement background?
I actually have both. I was in the military from 1992-1996, then became a police officer in 2001. I left police work in 2007.
It seems like your community has a bigger security team. Are you organizing your duties somehow? Is there some team leader or some hierarchy as we know from active duty?
Not really any structure like that. Our team consists of 4 main members. We all have fairly significant training. However I am the only one with military or law enforcement training. There are several other members of the team but they aren’t what I would call “shooters”. By that I mean, the 4 of us have more training on tactics and shooting in general. The rest are just good guys with guns. We usually keep at least 2 “shooters” in the lobby, and the other 2 will rove. Any other members are usually in the main sanctuary, watching the sermon. We also have several police officers who attend the church. They are not “active” members of the team, but are in the service if needed.
Do you train together? Are you working on some model scenarios at the very place, did you passed come special anti-active shooter, medical and other courses? How does your preparation look?
We don’t train together as much as we would all like. It’s difficult to find the time to get us all together to do it. We all have families with kids or we travel a lot. Most of us just train on our own. It’s not the perfect situation, but it’s better than nothing.
Does the local police department or authorities provide some kind of help to you, in meaning of training, security consultations, consultations in legal system, etc.?
Yes, like I said earlier, we have several police officers who are members of the church and they are always there for consultations and advice.
Is there something in the security measures, that you really miss, what should be done and it is not even, or not enough?
I would like to do more training. Especially scenario training in our building. Also, our pastor prefers that the team not be obvious. We are supposed to blend in and just look like any other member. Obviously this has it’s pros and cons. I would prefer to be more visible. I’m not suggesting we wear our flack vests and body armor to church, but I think being a bit more visible could be a deterrent.
Civilian firearms ownership in South Carolina
What are the gun laws in South Carolina for civilian person?
South Carolina is a fairly conservative state with laws that reflect that. We do not have open carry, but a CC license is easy to obtain. There are no laws regarding rifles in your vehicle. So as long as you are legal to own it, you can carry a rifle in your vehicle at all times. It can be loaded and does not have to be locked up. Although I don’t recommend that.
Are there some speciffics at church for it?
As stated before, you have to have a CC license, and obtain written permission from the pastor.
And how does the rest of your congregation looks at this? Armed volunteers at church, as it is deeply sad that a peaceful church needs such thing, it is not very common. Do they even know?
So most members don’t even know we are there. But the ones that do know, are grateful. It is unfortunate that it is necessary, but this is the world we live in.
Is security some kind of topic in the community? Is there some discussion about it?
Honestly I’m not that involved in the community, so I really don’t know.
And what is public opinion about guns, generally in your state, outside of the church?
Mostly favorable. Despite what’s happening in Virginia, the south is still pretty conservative. Especially in respect to guns. Obviously there are going to be some leftists everywhere, but fortunately they haven’t taken over here yet.
And how do you see guns in society, what does it mean to you?
I think every single law abiding citizen who can handle a weapon, should have one…
Are politicians pushing for anti-gun laws in South Carolina, as we see in many other states?
I haven’t seen any laws yet. Fortunately the conservatives still control the state here.
Shane’s advice to others
You have already made the decision in the past, in your previous active service in military and law enforcement. The important decision to put your life at risk to protect others. But many did not. They did not serve, but they have their guns and are good, law abbiding, responsible people. What would you tell them?
Shoot and train and shoot and train some more. Then when you think you are really good, go take a class from a real professional. Then go shoot and train some more.
Nobody knows when he will face such situation resulting in taking the shot to protect the others.
I don’t think it will be an issue for me. But then, I’ve never done it so I don’t know. I pray I never have to take another life, for any reason. But if the time comes that it’s necessary to act, I won’t hesitate. And if a bad guy dies as a result, that’s one less bad guy for the next good guy to deal with.
And what would you tell the people who do not have a gun. They are visiting the church or other public places, and something happens. Is there some short and advice how to act in such situation?
I tell people all the time, “If you aren’t comfortable with having/carrying a gun, then don’t. And if they find themselves in a situation where is an active shooter, I say run. Run away as fast and as far as is necessary to get away from the threat.
This will be very personal question, because this interview will be published at server visited mostly by gun enthusiasists, what do you carry for your personal defense, and what you shoot with?
I carry a Glock 19. Nothing special. I own several other Glocks and occasionally carry my G43 if I need a bit more concealment.
Are there some public shooting ranges in your place? Where anybody can come, pay an instructor and learn how to handle with gun?
Yes. Several actually.
Would you recommend to visit such place? Like for anybody? Just for the case? I can imagine many situations, when such thing can be very useful, maybe you don`t plan to buy yourself a gun, but you can get yourself in contact with it, even if you don` expect it. For example you help somebody unconscious at a car accident and he has a gun on him.
Absolutely. Even if someone hates guns and wants nothing to do with them, I would at a minimum recommend they know what to do if they find one. Most local ranges offer that type of information.
And, regarding your previous military and law enforcement career, and now your volunteer duty – how can be public helpful to you, typically at your community?
Get out of the way so I can shoot the bad guy.
Thank you very much Shane, it was a great opportunity to speak with you about this topic, stay sharp, be safe, wishing that you will never need any of this. But one never knows …
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