The gunman who shot two parishioners at the West Freeway church of Christ in Texas on Sunday has prompted some concerns among local congregations.
A 43-year-old, Keith Kinnunen, entered the Texas church and shot two people. A church member returned fire and killed the gunman. Now Chattooga church members are pondering changes.
“It shook us all up. I think we all want to be a little more proactive and step things up a little bit,” Subligna Road church of Christ Minister Tommy O’Kelley said.
That congregation was already in the process of installing magnetic lock doors and implementing other security measures before Sunday’s attack occurred. The shooting, however, is spurring them on.
“I met with the elders following the morning service and they are going to try to push our security system [implementation],” O’Kelley said. “I think [these types of shootings] are getting more and more prevalent.”
Chattooga County Sheriff Mark Schrader is aware of the shooting in Texas and said the West Freeway church of Christ had taken a great step toward its security. That church had implemented a security team, he said.
“Obviously it’s a terrible tragedy for anybody to go through. I think by there being a security team and those members being armed saved a lot of lives that day,” Sheriff Schrader said.
Churches and other places with larger gatherings should plan for these type incidents, the sheriff said.
“We already plan for our schools. Anywhere there is a large gathering of people there needs to be a plan in place,” Schrader said.
The sheriff said he’s willing to help any congregation with plans or advice. He’s planning to conduct a church security class in the coming weeks.
Now churches are having to discuss not only the gospel, but also the gun laws and whether people should carry concealed weapons to church.
Minister O’Kelley, a former military man, said he doesn’t mind people bringing a concealed weapon, only if they have a permit, have some training on how to use them and conceal the gun where no one else can see it.
“The elders said if you have a permit to carry and you feel comfortable, that’s your call. They don’t want people flashing their firearm where others could see it,” O’Kelley said.
The sheriff said his staff is willing to help the congregation come up with security plans and look over the grounds to see what could improve to make things more secure.