Fifty-seven percent of Protestant churches have a plan for an active shooter attack, and 95% have armed church members (54% of all protestant churches). That 54% in 2022 is up from 45% in 2019. At the same time, the churches with armed private security fell from 23% to 20%, and those relying on armed police fell from 6% to 5%. While those changes for armed private security and armed police aren’t likely statistically significant, they are consistent with churches moving away from paid/professional security towards relying on parishioners. Lifeway Research surveyed 1,000 Protestant churches. There were 77,860 Protestant churches in the U.S. in 2010. Assuming the same number of Protestant churches now, 42,044 churches have armed parishioners. With tens of thousands of churches with armed parishioners, do we ever hear about problems with so many people carrying? No. But we have collected cases where people legally carrying guns have stopped what would otherwise have been mass public shootings in churches.
The breakdowns by male and female pastors, Evangelical v. Mainline pastors, the pastor’s education level, and the church’s size are very interesting. Men are more likely than women to rely on armed parishioners. Similarly, more conservative denominations are also more likely to rely on them. If education is associated with more liberal political views,
- Male pastors are more likely to select than females (59% v. 36%)
- White pastors (56%) are more likely to select than African American (33%)
- Pastors with no college degree (60%) or a Bachelor’s Degree (61%) are more likely to select than those with a Master’s Degree (50%)
- Evangelical pastors are more likely to select than Mainline pastors (65% v.39%)
- Pastors in the South are the most likely to select (65%)
- Baptists (73%), Pentecostals (68%), Christian/Church of Christ (54%), and Non-Denominational (66%) are more likely to select than Lutherans (32%), Methodists (36%), and Presbyterian/Reformed (26%)
- Pastors at churches with attendance 250+ are the most likely to select(74%)
- Pastors at churches with attendance of 100-249 (66%) and 250+ (74%) are more likely to select than those with attendance 0-49 (41%) and 50-99 (53%)
In terms of security specifics, pastors are most likely to say their congregation has an intentional plan for an active shooter situation (57%). Additionally, most (54%) also say armed church members are part of the measures they have in place.
Around a quarter (26%) use radio communication among security personnel, while 1 in 5 say they have a no firearms policy in the building where they meet (21%) or armed private security personnel on site (20%). Fewer have uniformed police officers on church grounds (5%) or metal detectors at entrances to screen for weapons (1%).
“Most churches are small, so security plans often don’t need to be elaborate or expensive,” said McConnell. . . .
.Aaron Earls, “Planning and Armed Congregants Top Church Security Measures,” Lifeway Research, June 6, 2023.