If you are able under your local laws to carry concealed, it is advocated by self-defense professionals that you do. After all, it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. However, should that extend to your local place of worship?
Although according to FBI statistical reports, crime is down nationwide for the past several years http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/crimestats , it has not gone away altogether. Sadly, there have been several instances of criminal attacks on churches in the past several years.
Take these for example:
Phoenix 2014- One catholic priest was killed and another injured in an armed robbery by assailants unknown just after a Wednesday night service. A green 2003 Mazda Tribute was the robbers haul.
Knoxville 2008- A gunman with issues fired a shotgun at members of the congregation during a youth performance of Annie, killing two people and wounding seven others.
Lexington, Mississippi 2013, the 26-year old son of the church pastor, upset that his father was being fired, showed up at church with a shotgun and opened fire in the parking lot.
Recognizing that such events are likely to continue, the federal government even issued a 38-page Guide for Developing High-Quality Emergency Operations Plans for Houses of Worship put together by the FBI, Whitehouse, and FEMA. As the man said, you know it's bad when Washington gets involved.
While these shootings hopefully will not occur at your place of worship, they do happen.
First, be aware of both your state and local laws concerning carry in places of worship. In some states, even if the church is not posted as a gun free zone, the state may not allow even lawful concealed carry with a permit there. While there are some excellent resources out there to help you with this, nothing beats consulting your state law and being aware of it.
How to carry
Next, you are going to want to familiarize yourself with your congregation. They could have a set policy against any sort of carry, even for permit holders and law enforcement.
Some churches, my own included, utilize volunteer armed ushers who either are active or retired law enforcement or active concealed carry permit holders as an insurance policy during services. Although a small parish, we typically have $2,000 or more in cash at each collection and have often had cars burglarized in the parking lot. Thankfully, we have not had any violent encounters.
Other churches utilize an "armor bearer" concept that varies from belief to belief.
Even if not a member of your churches security force, you still want to exercise decorum in your carry by choosing your handgun wisely and using an adequate holster that does not "print." If needed, there can be no better place to wear a cover up blazer or suit jacket than in church. However, you need to be able to draw, from a seated position, wearing that jacket/holster/sidearm combination and that should be something you practice with an empty weapon in a safe area long before you head to service.
This can help elevate instances of accidental (or negligent) discharges that can be not only tragically dangerous, but also embarrassing to both yourself and the Second Amendment community.
For instance this Easter Weekend at the Cathedral of Blessed Sacrament in Altoona, PA, just such as accident occurred. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and the parishioner had a permit so the odds of him seeing much legal repercussion is slight. However, if that were you, could you see yourself going back to that church and having everyone's eyes on you?
Could you have lived with yourself if the accident was fatal?
All things to keep in mind.
What is your call? Do you carry in church? If not, then why not? Drop your opinion in the comments below.