Rhode Island tells houses of worship to prepare in case of active shooter attacks

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On Saturday, Rhode Island police held an active shooter preparedness training at St. James Episcopal Church in North Providence. They encouraged off-duty troopers to carry concealed weapons, and recommended that a few parishioners be designated to call 911. The session was planned before the shooting in Parkland, Florida, but several people said they attended it because of that catastrophe. Joannie Collins of St. James organized the event, and it was run by Capt. Derek Borek of the State Police. More than 100 people attended the event, mostly seniors. Borek encouraged them to think about their options in advance: where could they hide, how to escape. He said to think of active shooter situations like a fire drill, and to remain calm.

Many Episcopal Churches are designated as gun free zones, as is General Convention.

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Fred+Loving
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Fred+Loving

When I was in law enforcement full time I carried on duty , off duty , evereywhere I went I had it along with my badge / ID case. Not that I was worried about somebody shooting up the church , it was a requirement. I was also subject to recall at any moment. An officer was sent and got me off the back row once. Now that I am retired from all of that , I have " No weapons in sacred spaces " to deal with. When we advertise this we just as well to paint a big target on the front door. The people that wish to do us harm have no regard for sacred spaces.

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The Rev. Br. Aelred Bernard Dean, BSG
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The Rev. Br. Aelred Bernard Dean, BSG

The NRA and certain elected officials promote a culture of fear, which is the opposite of what the Holy Spirit gives to the church. The Gospel of John reminds readers, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." The love must be even great still if one lay down their life for ones enemy or someone intending to harm others. I cannot live in a culture of fear and suspicion as that is destructive to community.

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Harold Parkey
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Harold Parkey

Does it honor God to have a gun in Church? It is my opinion that it does not. It troubles me to think that guns might be allowed in a church for any reason, even for off duty law enforcement. For me the Church is a house of peace, prayer and sanctuary. Does the presence of a gun in Church distract us from focusing on our reason for being there? I believe the very presence of an implement whose purpose is to harm or kill is an offense to my understanding of the way of Christ. In this place, in this sanctuary, we are in the presence of Christ and under the grace, mercy and protection of God. It is my belief that to bring a weapon into God’s holy house is disrespectful of such a sacred space. Is self-preservation a Christian value? Can the use of weapons/violence, even to preserve life, be reconciled with the teachings of Christ? I believe fear is not a Christian virtue or habit of being therefore as a Christian I am called to walk through this world unarmed and unafraid.

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Tom+Downs
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Tom+Downs

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3. Since shooters are usually connected in some way to the target, it makes more sense to know your people and those situations that are likely to cause trouble. In our case knowing that we were protecting a woman and children from a violent husband, we could be on the alert for that particular man when it seemed there could be trouble. Similarly, when there's a bloody divorce in the parish or a child custody battle, it makes sense to prepare for all the possibilities at that time.
4. Christians do harm to the cause of Christ when they act out of fear. Risk for a cause that is just, Yes. Withdraw from the world and hide in fear, No.

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Tom+Downs
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Tom+Downs

I think this is the wrong approach. As the pastor of a congregation that hosted a domestic violence center, I know about angry violent people who might want to take revenge. But I still think this is the wrong approach.
1. We had the sheriff and the leader of the local SWAT team do a walk through. They had few suggestions beyond notice strangers and have phones handy. Of course, we could designate people to walk through the building at intervals and lock our doors once the service started, but they admitted that wouldn't likely stop an intruder. About guns, they were nervous introducing guns into a crowded room, and besides when help arrived how would they know who were the bad guys with guns and who were the good guys with guns. The exception were the officers who were members and often required to carry off duty.
2. They admitted that we had a much better chance of being hit by lightening than encountering a shooter.
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