How Should Churches Respond to Mass Shootings?

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In the wake of this morning’s mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, faith leaders across the country are once again asking what they can do to keep something similar from happening at their place of worship.

At the same time, the national conversation about gun laws has resurfaced with a renewed sense of urgency both inside and outside these sacred spaces. Dr. Jamie D. Aten had the opportunity to talk about these important issues with W. Craig Fugate, who served under both Democratic and Republican administrations as the head FEMA administrator from 2009-2017 and as Florida’s Emergency Management Director from 2001-2009. During his time at FEMA, he led responses to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting in Charleston, SC (2015) and the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT (2012).

Fugate - Shares - Aten - Perspective - Churches

Below, Fugate shares with Aten his perspective on how churches and houses of worship can have a better conversation about how to move forward and prepare for possible events without compromising their core identity or community responsibility.

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Aten - Reaction - Conversation - Churches - Houses

Aten: What is your reaction to the national conversation that has sprung up about churches and houses of worship taking precautions against mass shootings?

Fugate: The minute we start talking about security in churches and houses of worship, we’re admitting we have a much bigger problem. Places of worship by their very design are to be open and welcoming, not restrictive and exclusive to keep people out. I think that’s going to be a fundamental challenge for faith-based houses of worship: what does security look like while you’re trying to be a welcoming center for people to come?

Question - Thing - Airport - Houses - Worship

That’s going to be a hard question. It’s one thing when you’re talking about an airport, but houses of worship by their very nature...
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