Reverend Leatl Hope, pastor of the to Boring Fourth Day Adventist Church in Gun Barrel City has been reading about the deadly shootings in churches all over the country, and he is worried. His small congregation does not have the resources to retain a full-time security officer. Yet, he believes that he should be doing something to protect his flock. Does he have any options?

Yes. Before September 1, 2017, Texas law required all security services personnel to be trained, and to be registered or licensed with the Private Security Program. Effective September 1st, SB 2065 passed in the last Texas Legislative Session added Section 1702.333 to the Texas Occupations Code exempting volunteer security services on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of religious worship from complying with the Private Security Program requirements. Each security services volunteer must be approved by the leadership of the place of religious worship and must be licensed to carry a handgun in the State of Texas. And, unless they are registered or licensed with the Private Security Program, the worship volunteer security may not wear a uniform or otherwise give the impression that they are a peace officer, personal protection officer, or security officer.

Tilting the Scales in Your Favor

For those wanting specific practical information, my partner and State Representative Jeff Leach advises that a “Church Security” event is being hosted by Prestonwood Baptist Church on Tuesday, December 5th on the Plano Campus.

As congregations’ struggle with what will make physical spaces of worship safer, here are some ideas from United Church of Christ minister Peter Bauer:

Utilize existing resources: Many law-enforcement agencies will happily dispatch an officer to speak with church leaders about risk and preventative measures. Private security companies can also provide a risk analysis. There might be some threats or exposure not yet considered.

Develop a security plan: Police officers or deputies who moonlight as traffic control officers at a church can also provide a uniformed deterrent during services. Ushers can monitor the parking lot. Church leadership can designate select members of the congregation to serve as volunteer security.

Develop a response plan: If the threat of deadly mayhem breaks out in a church, people need to have dedicated responsibilities. Is there someone tasked to call 911? Someone needs to determine whether church-goers should flee or instruct them to stay in place. Design of your facility can play a role. Does your church have ample escape routes?

Use technology: Surveillance systems can help investigators following an incident and during a prolonged situation, but monitored cameras also can be a useful deterrent. Nothing beats human intelligence. If an usher perceives a threat, he or she can text or use a simple two-way radio to alert church leaders. Panic buttons directly linked to first responders can be strategically placed throughout the church campus.

Over the years, Tilting blogs about guns in Texas have included:

Concealed Carry Permits & Regulatory Reporting Requirements: Who Decides? (2016)

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: HB 700 Seeks to Allow Handguns to be Carried Openly (2013)

Glock on Board: Can you Keep a Handgun in Your Car if you Don’t have a Concealed Handgun License? (2013)

Texas Concealed Handgun Laws (2010)

Have Gun, Will Travel: Owner’s Liability to Patrons for Violent Acts

Have Gun, Will Travel? [Part Two] – Owner’s Liability to Employees for Violent Acts