Starrville attack leads East Texas churches to take a new look at security

Local News

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Sunday service is usually a safe place of worship and community for many East Texans. After the unexpected and tragic loss of Pastor Mark McWilliams, congregations are concerned.

“It is horrifying. We have the tendency to think that we’re in a secure area, yet we are finding ourselves being threatened at all times, not knowing where or when or how.”

Carey Ponder, Security member, Lanes Chapel United Methodist Church

After hearing about the Starrville attack, Lanes Chapel United Methodist Church in Tyler is reminded of the importance to take action. Carey Ponder, a member of security, told KETK that Sunday’s shooting was eye-opening.

“It’s kind of a shame that we have to have tragedies before we learn that lesson that this could happen in a church or in a city,” Ponder said.

To make his point, Ponder took us back to biblical times, recounting the story of Nehemiah building the wall around Jerusalem.

“They had watchmen on the wall guarding that wall, so we should have learned that lesson,” Ponder said.

After passing Senate Bill 535, Texas law now allows licensed firearm owners to carry a gun inside places of worship, meaning church-goers can be armed while attending services. However, according to the founder of the National Organization for Church Security, Chuck Chadwick, this only scratches the surface of preventative measures.

“The laws that were passed did nothing to make sure that people get trained. Our license to carry training in the state of Texas gets nowhere close to the type of training you would need to have in these types of situations.”

Chuck Chadwick, Founder, National Organization for Church Security

Chadwick stressed why it’s crucial for church members to know how to handle a weapon in danger and to get PPO training, i.e., Personal Protection Officer certification.

“This just again shows that this is not a megachurch thing or a matter of affordability, it’s a matter of understanding that it can happen there,” Chadwick said.

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