Packing and Praying: Why some Southwest Florida churches have armed security

Packing and praying: Why some Southwest Florida churches have armed security

 February 10th 2020 – by Evan Dean

As acts of violence rattle church congregations across the U.S., some churches in SWFL are making sure they’re armed and ready.

FORT MYERS, Fla. – For tens of millions of people across the U.S., the church is a sacred place – a place for comfort, redemption, and refuge.

A place where an act of violence is seemingly unthinkable.

But shootings inside churches have become all-too-common in recent years, rattling congregations across the country.

The latest church shooting to receive national attention happened in late December at the West Freeway Church of Christ in North Texas.

A gunman killed two people but was shot dead within seconds by Jack Wilson, the volunteer head of security at the church.

Wilson, who owns a gun range, was hailed a hero by local law enforcement.

“I don’t feel like I killed a human. I killed an evil,” Wilson told NBC News after the shooting.

The violence in Texas – and the rapid containment of the threat – has again raised a question that’s been posed before: should churchgoers, specifically church security teams, carry guns?

Generally, Florida law does allow a licensed gun owner to carry a concealed firearm in a church.

Russell Howard, the lead pastor at McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers, acknowledged the sad reality that shootings in places of worship have become far too common.

“Inevitably, you wonder – could this happen to me, or to a friend, or to a colleague, or to a church that is closer to us?” Howard said in an interview with NBC2. “It is a fallen world. It is a broken world.”

McGregor Baptist is one of the biggest churches in southwest Florida, and Howard admits their approach to security has changed in recent years.

“One of our initial ideas was — let’s keep it completely discrete. For heaven’s sake, let’s not let anyone notice that we have some very alert people. That is no longer our position,” Howard explained.

While he wouldn’t share all their safety measures, Howard said McGregor Baptist has a full-fledged security team – including some members who are retired or off-duty police officers.

He said the team checks bags at the doors, has people monitoring crowds, and yes, some members do carry guns.

“While politicians in environments who, by the way, are protected by men with guns, debate how to stop mass shootings… a gentleman in Texas stopped one in six seconds,” Howard said.

“The means to containment of a violent, misbehaving person, is to de-escalate the situation. And if that calls for the disciplined and effective use of counter-measured violence, as regrettable as that is, inarguably — at least in the Texas case — and I say this with gravity, my brother, not flippancy… it worked.”

McGregor Baptist has also held active shooter training with law enforcement to keep the congregation safe. Still, Pastor Howard maintained that all that training and security is ultimately secondary.

“This church is secure to the degree the will of God deems it so. My absolute trust is in the will of God,” Howard said. “I wouldn’t wish [a shooting] to happen. I very much hope it doesn’t. But we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

NBC2 Investigators spoke with leaders at several other churches in Southwest Florida, including one pastor who said they hire an armed security team to monitor their services.

However, not every pastor believes that guns belong in churches.

Several local leaders declined to interview for the story. Some indicated that their security wasn’t quite where they wanted it to be. Others didn’t feel comfortable divulging their practices or openly discussing the topic.

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Texas Church Shooting : Lessons Learned – Free Presentation

Schedule a free, presentation, analysis and discussion on the West Freeway Church of Christ, Texas church shooting.

Thursday evening, we conducted another free, private ‘presentation, analysis and discussion’ on the December 29th Texas church shooting for a local congregation.

If your church or ministry has a safety response team or are considering starting one, contact In-Gauge of Polk County for a free 1 hour presentation.

You may have watched the Texas church shooting video a dozen times, but if you did not see the armed ‘security’ team member fall face first, with his drawn gun presented, you need to attend this seminar.

863-206-1996

Email: info.ingauge@gmail.com

Winter Haven, Florida

In-Gauge of Polk County is a local, non-profit organization. No salaries are paid or received. All proceed go to support local shooting sports programs. 

FLORIDA – Church Security Bill One Step Closer To Becoming Law

To make this happen,,contact your Florida senator immediately ! ! !

Concealed carry in churches, ministries, synagogues and other faith organizations legislation moves forward with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Florida House moves ahead with guns-in-church bill

https://www.google.com/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=https://floridapolitics.com/archives/318403-bill-guns-places-worship&ct=ga&cd=CAEYASoTNDExNDA3NjY4OTAxMzY5MTAwNTIcM2FkNTJhOTBhNWMwN2FmMzpjb206ZW46VVM6Ug&usg=AFQjCNFmqy_WiLPtdLjVbZFtqjmqFDqLCQ

However, HB 1437 requires a companion Senate bill to be considered in general session.

To make it happen, the following Florida senators need to be contacted immediately ! ! !

Senator Bill Galvano                galvano.bill@flsenate.gov   
Senator Kathleen Passidomo    passidomo.kathleen@flsenate.gov      Senator Kelli Stargel                stargel.kelli.web@flsenate.gov          

The senators above should be contacted and encouraged to include the language in HB 1437 be added to an EXISTING approved Senate bill. Senate President Bill Galvano can make it happen if he wants it to happen.

FLORIDA – Church Security Bill One Step Closer To Becoming Law

HB 1437 passes House committee with 15-1 vote.

Concealed carry in churches, ministries, synagogues and other faith organizations legislation moves forward with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Florida House moves ahead with guns-in-church bill

https://www.google.com/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=https://floridapolitics.com/archives/318403-bill-guns-places-worship&ct=ga&cd=CAEYASoTNDExNDA3NjY4OTAxMzY5MTAwNTIcM2FkNTJhOTBhNWMwN2FmMzpjb206ZW46VVM6Ug&usg=AFQjCNFmqy_WiLPtdLjVbZFtqjmqFDqLCQ

However, HB 1437 requires a companion Senate bill to be considered in general session.

To make it happen, the following Florida senators need to be contacted immediately ! ! !

Senator Bill Galvano                galvano.bill@flsenate.gov   
Senator Kathleen Passidomo    passidomo.kathleen@flsenate.gov      Senator Kelli Stargel                stargel.kelli.web@flsenate.gov          

The senators above should be contacted and encouraged to include the language in HB 1437 be added to an EXISTING approved Senate bill. Senate President Bill Galvano can make it happen if he wants it to happen.

Texas Church Shooting : Lessons Learned – Free Presentation

Schedule a free, presentation, analysis and discussion on the West Freeway Church of Christ, Texas church shooting.

Last Thursday evening, we conducted another free, private ‘presentation, analysis and discussion’ on the December 29th Texas church shooting for a local congregation.

If your church or ministry has a safety response team or are considering starting one, contact In-Gauge of Polk County for a free 1 hour presentation.

You may have watched the Texas church shooting video a dozen times, but if you did not see the armed ‘security’ team member fall, face first, with his drawn gun presented, you need to attend this seminar.

863-206-1996

Email: info.ingauge@gmail.com

Winter Haven, Florida

In-Gauge of Polk County is a local, non-profit organization. No salaries are paid or received. All proceed go to support local shooting sports programs. 

Florida – Church Security Bill Moves Forward With Bipartisan Support

Concealed carry in churches, ministries, synagogues and other faith organizations legislation moves forward with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Florida House moves ahead with guns-in-church bill

https://www.google.com/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=https://floridapolitics.com/archives/318403-bill-guns-places-worship&ct=ga&cd=CAEYASoTNDExNDA3NjY4OTAxMzY5MTAwNTIcM2FkNTJhOTBhNWMwN2FmMzpjb206ZW46VVM6Ug&usg=AFQjCNFmqy_WiLPtdLjVbZFtqjmqFDqLCQ

However, HB 1437 requires a companion Senate bill to be considered in general session.

To make it happen, the following Florida senators need to be contacted immediately ! ! !

Senator Bill Galvano                galvano.bill@flsenate.gov   
Senator Kathleen Passidomo    passidomo.kathleen@flsenate.gov      Senator Kelli Stargel                stargel.kelli.web@flsenate.gov          

The senators above should be contacted and encouraged to include the language in HB 1437 be added to an EXISTING approved Senate bill. Senate President Bill Galvano can make it happen if he wants it to happen.

Presentation: Shooting In A Texas Church – ‘Lessons Learned’

If your church or ministry has a safety response team or are considering starting one, contact In-Gauge of Polk County for a free 1 hour presentation.

Schedule a free, presentation, analysis and discussion on the West Freeway Church of Christ, Texas church shooting.

Last evening, we conducted another free, private ‘presentation, analysis and discussion’ on the December 29th Texas church shooting for a local congregation.

If your church or ministry has a safety response team or are considering starting one, contact In-Gauge of Polk County for a free 1 hour presentation.

You may have watched the Texas church shooting video a dozen times, but if you did not see the armed ‘security team’ member fall with his drawn gun presented, you need to attend this seminar.

863-206-1996

Email: info.ingauge@gmail.com

Winter Haven, Florida

In-Gauge of Polk County is a local, non-profit organization. No salaries are paid or received. All proceed go to support local shooting sports programs. 

Presentation: Texas Church Shooting – Lessons Learned

Schedule a free, private, presentation, analysis and discussion on the West Freeway Church of Christ, Texas church shooting.

Tonight, we will be conducting another free, private presentation, analysis and discussion on the December 29th Texas church shooting, before a local congregation.

You may have watched the Texas church shooting video a dozen times, but if you did not see the armed ‘security team’ member fall with his drawn gun presented, you need to attend this seminar.

If your church or ministry has a safety response team or are considering starting one, contact In-Gauge of Polk County for a free 1 hour presentation.

863-206-1996

Email: info.ingauge@gmail.com

Winter Haven, Florida

In-Gauge of Polk County is a local, non-profit organization. No salaries are paid or received. All proceed go to support local shooting sports programs. 

Presentation: Texas Church Shooting – Lessons Learned

Schedule a free, private, presentation, analysis and discussion on the West Freeway Church of Christ, Texas church shooting.

Tonight, we will be conducting another free, private presentation, analysis and discussion on the December 29th Texas church shooting, before a local congregation.

You may have watched the Texas church shooting video a dozen times, but if you did not see the armed ‘security team’ member fall with his drawn gun presented, you need to attend this seminar.

If your church or ministry has a safety response team or are considering starting one, contact In-Gauge of Polk County for a free 1 hour presentation.

863-206-1996

Email: info.ingauge@gmail.com

Winter Haven, Florida

In-Gauge of Polk County is a local, non-profit organization. No salaries are paid or received. All proceed go to support local shooting sports programs. 

Presentation, Analysis and Discussion – December 29th Texas church shooting

Schedule a free, private, presentation, analysis and discussion on the West Freeway Church of Christ, Texas church shooting.

Tonight, we will be conducting another free, private presentation, analysis and discussion on the December 29th Texas church shooting, before a local congregation.

You may have watched the Texas church shooting video a dozen times, but if you did not see the armed ‘security team’ member fall with his drawn gun presented, you need to attend this seminar.

If your church or ministry has a safety response team or are considering starting one, contact In-Gauge of Polk County for a free 1 hour presentation.

863-206-1996

Email: info.ingauge@gmail.com

Winter Haven, Florida

In-Gauge of Polk County is a local, non-profit organization. No salaries are paid or received. All proceed go to support local shooting sports programs.