September 24, 2010
In today's world, no place is truly safe.
Photo by Elyse Harrell.
Whenever I attend any type of religious service, like most people I follow all the prescribed rituals and do my best to keep an open mind and heart. After 22 years as a police officer, however, in addition to the prescribed religious rituals, I also have a few of my own rituals I follow religiously.
While approaching the church, synagogue or other place of worship, I scan the people in the general area as well as those approaching the building. I also check out any vehicles in the area, looking for anything out of place.
Once inside, as I look over the crowd, I also look for the exits. Regardless of whether the service is crowded or sparsely attended, I always sit in the back, preferably on an outside corner.
This allows me to keep an eye on the main entrance as well as the side entrances. It also puts me in the most defensible position in the room; with your back to the corner of a square or rectangular room you've got only a 90-degree angle of area to deal with, and plenty of benches or chairs between you and any incoming threat.
My wife and children are aware of my rituals and understand why I have adopted them. They are also aware that I am always armed, not only while attending religious services but especially when attending religious services. It's not because I am hyper vigilant, paranoid or both. It's because in this world we live in, people attending religious services are high on the vulnerability menu.
Religion is and always has been a hot-button issue. As we all know, people do all sorts of things in the name of religion--from the greatest, most selfless acts of good to the most heinous, unspeakable acts of evil.
Second, if someone is determined to carry out a heinous act of violence or evil, most places of worship are set up to place the worshipers in a tactically disadvantageous position. Think about it: Practically everyone in the building is facing away from the main entrance, focused on the person or persons leading the service at the front of the room.
Those leading the service are usually focused on their own business and are probably neither trained to look for nor recognize danger signs. In fact, the chances of them even being predisposed to do so is highly unlikely ; they are there to take part in a religious service, not a security exercise.
In the event that someone did walk into the building with murder in his heart and a weapon in his hand, even if the leader did recognize the threat and wished to take action to protect himself and those in attendance, what could he actually do? Unless he happened to be armed himself, the best he could probably do would be to raise the alarm and hope that someone in the room was prepared to take action.
And that is where the law-abiding, legally armed members of our society come in. For while we all hope and pray we will never need to use our weapons to protect ourselves or others, especially in a place of worship, the ugly fact is that attacks on people in places of worship are on the rise.
For the sake of those we care about, we need to acknowledge this unsavory fact and be prepared to respond to an immediate threat with maturity, valor and decisiveness should it be necessary--wherever it may surface.