Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Suggested Reading

Here's a list of books and articles I've read and found helpful over the last year:

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Pitfalls of Implementing a Church Security Plan

Many churches recognize the need for security after a newsworthy event.

A few implement a plan, but too often, the plan becomes another binder on the shelf, or worse -- the planning process becomes an end in itself, generating reams of studies and procedures that are never implemented because they are too complex, resource heavy, and inflexible.

How can you avoid these dead ends?

How can you harness the expertise and energy of those in your congregation who desire to establish and serve in a security ministry?

First, be realistic. You cannot address all possible threats at all times. But you can address some threats -- start with those and then expand on the baseline.

Second, keep the committee small. Gaining consensus is easier with four than fourteen. Communication will be easier, decisions more rapid, and velocity improved.

Finally, choose implementable objectives and make them happen. Build on success and use the goodwill generated by a successful exercise to gain support for the next step.

Here is a suggested approach to successfully implementing a security approach in a local congregation:
  1. Identify a core group of qualified, committed members and form a security subcommittee. Keep it small (2 to 5)
  2. Develop an initial plan, then get leadership backing (best if a leader is part of the committee)
  3. Pick realistic, achievable objectives (see examples below)
  4. Create a security policy outline (see this post for a template)
  5. Develop and adopt a security policy
  6. Schedule an event (a fire drill is best – everyone knows how, it establishes an evacuation protocol, and can always be improved)
  7. Practice, Rehearse, Walkthrough (no surprises!)
  8. Coordinate with local LEO, Fire, EMS
  9. Build on success
  10. Develop and provide training tailored to your congregation
  11. Expand the core group as interest increases and after policies and protocols are established.
Examples of realistic short-term win policies that can be instituted with minimal turmoil include:
  • Fire drill
  • Door Locking policy
  • Accountability (who is where)
  • Security awareness for ushers/ greeters
“Security” shares the problems of economics or foreign policy -- everyone has an opinion, while experts can’t satisfactorily prove one course of action is superior to another.

Therefore, it is in the best interest of the church to leave the planning and policy-making to a small group with intimate knowledge of the church, potential threats, and the range of legal and practical responses available to civilians.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Same Old Script

Every school shooting ends in the same sad predictable script:
  1. "Journalists" run to the scene with cameras to shove in front of sobbing, grieving people
  2. Network News shows scramble to create pseudo-events ("Townhall Meetings" with "Special Guests")
  3. Politicians run to the closest camera for airtime to prove they "care" and "Want to do something about this."
  4. The parents of the killer insist there were no signs... no indications... they can't believe it...
  5. The psychologists, social workers, teachers, counselors, police officers, district attorneys, doctors, and druggists who interacted with the lone killer lay low.
  6. The Government bureaucracies tasked with tracking, monitoring, and preventing mass killings disappear.
  7. Politicians insist the failings of government require further restrictions on the citizenry.
Clearly, this is messed up.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Church: Unique Security Challenges

A church presents unique security challenges and concerns, as the risks to churches are more varied than private homes, businesses, or schools. For while homes, offices, and campuses require security of the occupants and property, a church survives -- and even thrives -- on good will.

Churches produce no product, provide few compensatory services, and rarely hold enough capital to operate on dividends alone. Good will -- or positive testimony or reputation -- is the primary value a church uses to maintain and sustain its ministry.

A church with an unfavorable reputation will experience a reduction in attendance, less money in donations, fewer activities, and fewer volunteers.

Over 4,000 churches close in the US annually, while barely 1,000 open, for a net loss of 3,000 fewer churches each year. See: "Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline" in Church Leadership.

While changing demographics close some churches, we can assume between a quarter to half of the closed churches reached the end after one or more events fatally damaged the reputation of the church in the community.

Therefore, the testimony of a church is an asset to be protected. This observation in a Harvard Business Review article entitled "Reputation and its Risks", while focused on business,  applies to churches:
"Effectively managing reputational risk begins with recognizing that reputation is a matter of perception. A company’s overall reputation is a function of its reputation among its various stakeholders (investors, customers, suppliers, employees, regulators, politicians, nongovernmental organizations, the communities in which the firm operates) in specific categories (product quality, corporate governance, employee relations, customer service, intellectual capital, financial performance, handling of environmental and social issues). A strong positive reputation among stakeholders across multiple categories will result in a strong positive reputation for the company overall."
Most businesses can recover from a reputation setback ("New Coke," BP, Dow Chemical, Chrysler, Toyota, Chipotle) if they provide a product or service that is unique and in demand. Given the mobility of Americans in and through various churches in a lifetime, it is the rare church which can recover from a significant reputation setback.

The Tension

Churches must be welcoming to strangers, with easy access and no off-putting security checkpoints, metal detectors, or bag searches. Any church that implements heavy-handed security protocols will damage its reputation for "friendliness." Consider the TSA, one of the more maligned bureaucracies in the US federal government.

Few people rate look forward to encountering TSA. It's an annoyance that must be endured to get to something else. Many people choose alternate means of transportation just to avoid the hassles of airport security. It almost doesn't matter how pleasant the TSA person is -- the degradation of being treated as a suspect is hassle enough.

Always a Joy...
Attending church is voluntary. If we subject attendees to scrutiny -- even passive scrutiny -- they will reconsider attending. The very suggestion visible security implies -- that "no one is trustworthy" -- is abhorrent, especially in a place dedicated to relationships.


Recent events suggest security concerns are real and must be considered, for the sake of the congregation and the testimony of the church.

Sutherland Springs Baptist Church, Sutherland, Texas
These are difficult questions with no simple solutions. Still, pretending the problems do not exist will not reduce risk.

An effective church security approach must carefully weigh the impacts to various ministries, resource constraints, and visitor and member perception before imposing security protocols.


Establish a Security Committee

A Security committee should be constituted as a leadership subcommittee charged with developing and implementing safety and security policies, protocols, and procedures. In addition, security committee members should be able to make on-the-spot changes to procedures should conditions warrant.

The committee should be led by a board member (or qualified representative), and have representation from pastoral staff, ushers and greeters, Christian education, and any interested volunteer with law enforcement or security training and certification. While ideally, law enforcement officers participate on the committee,  the committee should represent the diverse sensitivities, concerns, and interests of the church.

The committee should meet regularly and present meeting minutes and all policy recommendations to the board. The committee should also develop and present training to church staff, volunteers, and members.

Forbid Open Carry and Offensive Weapons On Church Property

Open carry by civilians (those not on official law enforcement or security duty) is pointless in a church. It causes needless concern, draws unnecessary attention to the firearm carrier, and may tarnish the testimony of the church. Acceptance of this practice by not clearly forbidding it could be construed as tacit approval.

The Security committee should develop a protocol on what to do if the policy is violated that determines how the incident should be reported and who should respond.

The church should also forbid certain classes of offensive weapons (Pennsylvania Title 18 defines "offensive weapons" as "Any bomb, grenade, machine gun, sawed-off shotgun with a barrel less than 18 inches, firearm specially made or specially adapted for concealment or silent discharge, any blackjack, sandbag, metal knuckles, dagger, knife, razor or cutting instrument, the blade of which is exposed in an automatic way by switch, push-button, spring mechanism, or otherwise, any stun gun, stun baton, taser or other electronic or electric weapon or other implement for the infliction of serious bodily injury which serves no common lawful purpose.") The church can choose to permit defensive weapons such as concealed firearms by lawful permit holders, and OC sprays.

Therefore, a church should publish a policy that specifies that open carry is not permitted on church property, with exceptions for federal, state, and local law enforcement officers on duty and armed guards hired by the church

Require Certification for Security Volunteers

Unless the church requires a minimum standard prior to volunteering for church security, the church should not provide any training that recognizes concealed carry in the church. Otherwise, such training will be construed as sanctioning anyone who attends, in which case the church may be liable for any imprudent act (negligent discharge, misuse of force, brandishing) involving a firearm (or any lethal weapon, including tasers, billy clubs, knives, and pepper spray). This is a very dangerous situation, both for the church and for the volunteer.

The church should establish guidelines, conduct training events, and otherwise work with security volunteers to ensure consistency of mission and methods.

The church should establish minimum qualifications to ensure the person is competent in the legal, ethical, and practical factors affecting the use of deterrence, de-escalation, less-than-lethal, and deadly force. This will reduce the church’s liability exposure, help ensure only qualified people respond to threats, help maintain coordination and communication during a high-pressure event, and help avoid (but not guarantee) potential catastrophic results to life and testimony.

Those who volunteer will be best served by acquiring certification recognized as the standard for armed security guards in the locality. This establishes a minimum threshold, aligns with private security, and helps raise the level of care established by the church.

Most certified armed security officer programs require a psychological exam, a physical exam, and a criminal background check. The church should have its own vetting process that ensures security volunteers maintain a commitment to the mission of the church, which may reduce the effectiveness of the security posture.

Requiring certification achieves several key objectives:
  • Maintains a minimum standard of training 
  • Demonstrates the church’s commitment to adhering to a recognized standard 
  • Acts as a barrier to entry for volunteers who are enthusiastic, but not committed or capable
  • Provides a legally recognized certification that helps shield against liability suits 

Provide training for all volunteers on safety and security awareness

Training should be provided to help church leaders, staff, and volunteers recognize and address security risks in a way that maintains Christian testimony, accords with all jurisdictional laws, is ethically sound, minimizes overt security measures, and can be implemented within a resource-constrained environment.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0: A Mid-Term Review

DISCLAIMER: I don't get paid or compensated in anyway to review anything. So the opinions expressed are mine alone, unsullied by filthy lucre.
I recently added a Smith and Wesson M&P 2.0 9mm 5" FDE (Flat Dark Earth) with safety to my stable of 9mm handguns.
It Shoots Well Enough... (10 yards)


The M&P M2.0 is an incremental revision of Smith and Wesson's popular striker-fired polymer pistol line. "Incremental," in that magazines and accessories are interchangeable between the original M&P series and the 2.0, the ergonomics and operations remain similar, and the price, weight, and capacities remain essentially unchanged.

The incremental enhancements are improvements, though, as the 2.0 pistol adds an extended steel chassis, an interesting loaded chamber indicator, an improved trigger, and a very nice grip texture.

Enhancement Details

The extension of the steel insert is supposed to change the recoil properties. I've owned an original M&P 9c for a decade and while the gun is smaller than the 5" 2.0, I can't register a difference in recoil. My guess is that the stiffer frame will help in the long run, but I'll trust S&W engineering figured out reasons to require the use of more metal and therefore increase cost to manufacture (those decisions aren't easy!).

The loaded chamber indicator is a nice feature. At first, I just ignored it, but after several range trips, I've learned to slide a finger across the top to verify what I expect to find -- a round in the chamber. It's not much use visually, as it barely rises above the slide. But it would be excellent in low light situations. It doesn't get in the way and doesn't compromise form or function so it's either "nice" or simply ignored.

The trigger is -- fine. There are all sorts of trigger jobs, aftermarket triggers, complaints, and comments. After many years of using government-issued triggers, I just adapt to the firearm. I have no issues with the M&P series triggers (original or 2.0). The hinged safety is squishy, sure, but it's quickly ignored.

The grip texture is outstanding. It is the top upgrade to this gun, in my very humble opinion. Sure, I could have pulled out a soldering iron or purchased Talon grips (as I have for my M&P Compact), but once I gripped and fired this gun -- well, let's just say it just works.

The safety is ambidextrous and is easy to operate. I use a Safariland ALS OWB holster and after a few hundred dry fire practice reps I can grip, pull, and disable the safety and fire in the same time I can draw and fire with the safety already off. So my rush to remove the safety has been delayed.

I was surprised to find the Medium-Large insert worked best for me, but it does.


Not bad at 15 yards
I was able to use this firearm for PA Act 235 Lethal Weapons certification this weekend. I shoot it now as well as my more familiar M&P 9c and Sig 229. The Walther PPS is a bit more work to maintain accurate rapid fire due to its diminutive size and weight.

I've had the M&P 2.0 a month now, and have fired over 1000 rounds, from Ultramax Reman lead round nose (indoor range requirements) to Remington Value Pack to Hornady Critical Duty. I haven't had a single stoppage, misfeed, or misfire.

The gun fits my hand and grip very well. It has the closest "natural point of aim" of any handgun I've fired (I test this dry fire by assuming a normal firing stance, etc and then holding while closing eyes. If the sights are still aligned with the target after 15 seconds, it's good).

It's easy to shoot this handgun, and it makes me a better shooter.


The Safariland ALS holster is a fine OWB retention holster. The 5" is a bit large for concealed carry, but that's why I have the M&Pc.

NOTE: The Safariland website does not list the M&P 2.0 9mm 5", but the M&P 9L will fit the M&P 2.0 just fine.

Cleaning and Servicing

I clean my firearms after every trip to the range. It's probably excessive but it's what I do (cav troopers will know about "horse, saddle, man").

Disassembly is Easy...

...So is Reassembly
Takedown is easy and cleanup straightforward. I use Ballistol for cleaning and then grease the few lube points with Weapon Shield.

S&W provides a lifetime service policy to the original owner ("We will repair any defect in material or workmanship without charge to the original purchaser for as long as you own the handgun.")

Bottom Line

I've been very pleased with the S&W M&P 2.0. It shoots where I point it, fires whatever ammunition is loaded, and seems durable and well-made, as parts fits with few gaps or unsightly edges or seams.

I'd recommend the M&P 2.0 series to anyone who is looking for a reasonably priced dependable, durable, and reliably shootable handgun.

Purchase Experience

I planned to buy the 2.0 from Bud's Gun Shop, but unexplained delays in shipping after payment was received gave pause. My experience with online customer service didn't help. I canceled the order (with no penalty) and then shopped again.

I ordered from Sportsman's Outdoor Superstore. The order was placed, I received order confirmation then shipping info the same day. Less than a week later the gun was at my local FFL.

Your Mileage May Vary.


If you're considering this gun and have questions that weren't answered, I'd be happy to answer those I am able, or at least point you to places I did research before buying. Just comment below!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Why Oppose "Common Sense?"

After every mass killing, the gun control arguments revive. The prescriptions are familiar: bans on "assault" rifles, "banana clips," and "AK-47s."

Anyone that dares to question any of these is immediately branded a right-wing nutjob or worse -- someone with "blood on their hands."
Ah, yes. The Solomonic Musings of Code Pink
This is followed by: "How can anyone be against common sense gun laws?"

Of course, the question begs the question: What is a "common sense" law?
Profound Wisdom
Rather inconveniently, mass killings are perpetrated by people who ignore laws. For example, the Newtown killer killed his mother and used her guns to perpetrate his massacre (the Texas church killer should have been denied access but the USAF failed to report his conviction)

The Las Vegas killer acquired his guns legally and then used them to break a number of laws (the most serious, multiple murders).

If laws were ignored in these cases, why would another law "fix" things?
Here's the dirty little secret: passing a law provides no fixes but makes people "feel good." They want explanations, reasons, and "action" after a horrific act -- acts that defy reason, logic, and the social constructs we expect everyone to live by. The demand to "do something, now!" is reactionary, and ultimately results in flawed fixes because these problems are deep and intractable.
Quite frankly it doesn't matter who "feels" good or bad about any law. Rather, is the law is Constitutional? Does it clearly address the problem while not unduly inconveniencing the innocent?

If we wanted to eliminate illegal drug use, we could pass a law that requires a full background check of each person being issued a prescription, to include a list of all drugs dispensed to date.

Of course, your wait at CVS would be a couple of hours but -- Hey! Aren't you upset about all these drug overdose deaths??

Clearly, burdening the law-abiding with unnecessary delays and inconveniences would be bad law.

Therefore, we should be able to agree that "common sense" law would be focused on malefactors, not innocents.

So, do we need "common sense" laws to ban "assault" rifles?

First, the definition of "assault rifle" is ambiguous. For people unfamiliar with firearms, any rifle with a black stock is an "assault rifle." For others, the AR-15 is the definition of an "assault rifle."

Over four million rifles are sold annually, with at least one million sold designated as an "AR-15" style.

That's at least five million AR-15 type rifles in private hands in the USA.

(Many of those AR-15s shoot .22 caliber, a small rimfire cartridge that is intended for targets and very small game -- hardly a "weapon of war")

One AR-15 is used in a heinous crime and suddenly the other 4,999,999 AR-15s present a menace?

It's interesting that victims are typically trotted out as the sole possessors of virtue after every tragedy, insisting that we "do something" immediately.

Thankfully, the Founders understood the vagaries of mob behavior, and choose to institute a government structure based on deliberation and compromise.

Sadly, some issues do not lend themselves to compromise, as we learned in the 1860s. Slavery was either lawful or not.

It's the same with abortion. Any "compromise" about abortion simply shifts the murder date.

Guns are similarly difficult compromise topic. Individuals either can possess and carry guns or they can't.

Some will argue that registration, limits on quantities and times, and more stringent background checks are "common sense" compromises. "Who can possibly be against these common-sense measures? We have to stop the killing!"

The implication is that anyone who disagrees has no "common sense." Further, anyone rejecting "action now!" is somehow complicit in murder.

It doesn’t matter that much of our gun violence is gang-related. It doesn’t matter that you can find far fewer guns per capita in most of South America, yet much higher rates of violence. It doesn’t matter that most of our gun crime occurs in American cities.

The Flow of Cocaine into the US

Drug Cartel Handiwork in Mexico (The Mexican Constitution guarantees the right of Mexicans to possess arms. Even so, gun control laws in Mexico are very strict, and police discretion in enforcement makes possession of firearms of greater than .22 very difficult. see:

Let's drop the pretense: "common sense" means "guns out of the hands of the citizenry."

Listen carefully and you'll quickly learn they want them all, and they won’t be happy until they have them all.

An interesting hiccup in all this "common sense" is the complete faith and trust in police as the only rightful gun holders -- the same police we're told run rampant, targeting and shooting people indiscriminately. The same police that are convicted of a higher percentage of felonies than Concealed Carry permit holders. See Research Paper Here

People should be honest about their intentions, but they're not. Thus, the use of incrementalism to achieve an end in a way that can be successful in a pluralistic democracy.

The NRA and other folks who support the right for individuals to keep and bear arms took note of the incrementalist strategy used to demonize tobacco.

While I was the first to applaud the end of smoking in restaurants and hotels, it's very instructive that the current outright ban was accomplished over time using incremental steps: First restaurants were required to be divided into smoking and non-smoking sections. Then smoking was forbidden inside restaurants. Not long after, smoking was forbidden at entryways. Now, people are being sued for the effects of "third-hand smoke." (see article here, and Mayo Clinic article here)

Each incremental step was "common sense."

But in aggregate it imposed a Government-empowered will of the majority on the minority in a way that was impossible to defend.

Those of us who support the right to "Keep and bear arms" have learned from that inexorable slide and have determined we won't accept "common sense" advice from people who can't distinguish a magazine from a clip.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Suspect Advice to Churches

In a Washington Post article entitled Training helps churches prepare for violent attacks Fear, headlines give rise to new training sessions, from December 1, 2017, we read:
At the recent two-hour training offered by the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, officials gave tips to the audience, which included organ players, pastors, clergy, choir directors, ushers, church trustees and secretaries, along with Sunday school teachers.
If a gunman enters a church, they were told to throw hymnals at him or stab him in the shin with a letter opener. Those little pencils in the back of each pew? Use them to stab the gunman in the neck.
“I realize I’m asking people who preach compassion, love and peace to pick up a pen and try to stop a shooter if you have the opportunity,” said Sgt. Michael Zepp, who led the training and oversees the sheriff’s SWAT team.
But it’s the reality of the times. “You can be a saint, and you can be a sinner,” he said.
To be sure, Zepp said while some of the tips might sound trivial, they should be thought of as an interruption. Throwing a hymnal at a shooter, he said, “may not stop him but it may limit the casualties, and it’s better than sitting there waiting to get killed.” 
I'm sure the good law enforcement officers of Carroll County Sherriff's Office mean well. They're helping some learn that "lockdown" is no longer a good option. And they're even conceding that fighting back might help deter, delay, or even stop an attacker.

But let's consider -- will someone who has a fear of firearms suddenly --in a moment of extreme stress -- be able to wield a letter opener or a pen with such violence that an armed assailant will cease his attack?

Which is more likely to end an attack -- two well-placed shots by an armed civilian or ten pokes with a letter opener?

Which is the better choice: Preparation, training, and effective firepower or a frenzy of tossed hymnals?

Of course, Maryland has no state constitutional provision granting a “right to bear arms.” Maryland is one of the few holdouts of "We'll let you know..." approach, as an application for a permit to carry a handgun is made to the Secretary of State Police with a notarized letter stating the reasons why the applicant is applying for a permit. The State Police will then decide if you can or can't exercise a basic Constitutional right.

The questions sound silly because the premise is silly, and I'm certain that members of the Carroll County Sherriff's Department who attend church services prefer to attend armed.

The Assertion that Firearms are designed to kill

A common "talking point" circulating in the "gun control" debate is: "Firearms are designed to kill." I have s...