GALVESTON

It’s better to have a plan, and not have to use it than to have nothing at all, said Galveston pastor Marc James on Monday night.

After a mass shooting earlier this month at a small church outside San Antonio, church leaders from around Galveston, police officials and dozens of residents gathered at Jerusalem Baptist Church on Monday to talk about how they can be prepared in case of a similar attack.

The meeting is a sad commentary on the state of things today, James said.

“The one place that most people would call safe is the house of God,” James, pastor of the church, said. “I believe that what we saw was that, even in worship, violence can still take place.”

It could have been any church, he said.

Police officials said the best thing churches can do to respond to a situation is to have a standard operating procedure in place, and to practice it.

Galveston Police Capt. David Millican told the group programs were available to assess the security in church buildings, and to train people — including pastors, ushers and choir members — to act as first responders in emergency situations. Being prepared to respond, rather than prevent violence altogether, is the most realistic approach, Millican said.

“The devil comes to church, too,” Millican said. “The bad thing about it is that it’s going to be a response. It takes a nanosecond for it to go bad.”

One such company even offers training on a “biblical basis,” Millican said.

There are other safety considerations to consider too, Galveston District Attorney Jack Roady said.

A new law passed during the 2017 Texas legislative session allows churches to create volunteer church security teams, members of which carry weapons in places of worship and conduct security actions, Roady said.

Individual churches can also decide whether to allow their congregants to carry weapons — openly or concealed.

“If you don’t say you are prohibiting it, then you are allowing it,” Roady said. “Those are hard decisions you have to make.”

The hard decisions come at a time when many churches around the country are confronting their vulnerabilities after the Sutherland Springs shooting.

Just nine days ago, Devin Kelley killed 25 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. One of the people was a pregnant woman. Another 11 people were injured.

It was the worst mass shooting in Texas history. Kelley, who bystanders wounded, killed himself shortly after the shooting. Investigators suspect he was targeting his former mother-in-law, who was a member of the church. She was not at the service, however.

Speakers on Monday night said that there’s no telling whether a mass shooting would happen in Galveston, but it’s always possible.

The definition of a mass shooting varies between sources, but it could be argued that Galveston has at least one in its history. In 1998, 19-year-old Keith Michael St. Aubin killed one person and injured four others when he fired into a crowd during the city’s Mardi Gras celebrations.

During his trial, St. Aubin’s lawyers argued that he suffered from paranoia and schizophrenia. He was sentenced to five life sentences.

Galveston police officials said they regularly provide guidance to churches and businesses that ask for help with planning for armed attacks. Since the Sutherland Springs shootings, at least one local church has sought guidance, officials said.

Husband and wife Anthony and Jeanette Mack, both members of the Jerusalem Baptist Church, attended Monday’s event — in the name of being prepared.

“We just want all the information we can have,” Anthony Mack said. “It’s heartbreaking to think that would happen in a church, but that’s the time we’re living in.

James said he planned to hold more conversations and community events, including some sort of show of support for the people of Sutherland Springs.

“We have to make sure we’re making an impact outside the building,” he said.

John Wayne Ferguson: 409-683-5226; john.ferguson@galvnews.com or on Twitter @johnwferguson.

(8) comments

Mark Aaron

You can thank the NRA and its defenders for the massive proliferation of rapid-fire high-capacity weapons terrorizing America. Including its schools and churches.

Kelly Naschke

What did the NRA or any of its supportes have to do with ? Please provide specific examples.

Kelly Naschke

Well...it’s been almost two hours since I posed my question to little Marky...and no response. Apparently he can’t find any facts to support his baseless , preconceived,standard liberal talking points. I am thinking he should change his cute little emoji from “facts”....to “fool”.

Mark Aaron

Leroy: [Please provide specific examples.]

What you do all the time Leroy, glorify guns, act as if arming yourself to the teeth and hating our government is somehow patriotic. If anyone suggests checking the proliferation of weapons you attack with venomous vigor.

Tim Thompson

I'll tell you the NRA's solution: less regulation, more guns, heck, maybe everybody should carry firearms, so they can prevent future attacks. I'm sorry, most "Liberals" are not for abolishing the 2nd Amendment, they are for sensible gun regulation, I'm a Liberal and I believe people should have the right to own weapons, such as pistols, hunting rifles, and shotguns. But these military-grade semi-automatics like the AR-15's? "Why, why do regular, average people need these, I don't think the Founding Fathers intended for this to be the status quo" I said to a guy I know. "Oh yes they did, because the 2nd Amendment was written to allow The People to be able to arm themselves in case the government turned tyrannical." "So we need all these millions of semi-automatics in this country, millions and millions of rounds of ammunition, let people stockpile as much as they want, no checks?" "Of course, The People will need this kind of weaponry in order to fight the Government, if and when it becomes tyrannical, because they will be able to command soldiers that have a lot more firepower." This is the mentality. Unbelievable. There is never going to be any meaningful, sensible gun control if and until the Dems are able to flip Congress, probably both houses.

Carlos Ponce

Dems had both Houses and the presidency. Why didn't they enact what you call "meaningful, sensible gun control"? Political suicide.

Tim Thompson

They did, a 10-year ban on semi's (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Assault_Weapons_Ban)was signed by Bill Clinton in 1994. It was not renewed when it expired in 2004. It is not political suicide, again, if the Dems ever get control of both houses I do believe they will try again. The NRA used to make campaign donations to Democrats too, in years past, but for quite a while now they haven't bothered so they give all of their substantial lobbying money to Republicans. You may make the argument that the Dems will not regain both houses, or the presidency, for a long time, many more years, that may end up being true but it is still to be seen.

Carlos Ponce

The ban had virtually no effect. So why didn't the Dems re-introduce when they had the House, the Senate and the Presidency? Obama promised, but....
"Obama and his aides don’t want to spark a backlash from the NRA and voters who cling to their guns—especially as Democrats ride toward a difficult mid-term election. On this dicey topic, Obama cares most about ducking a political bullet." In other words-it would be POLITICAL SUICIDE.
http://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2010/05/obama-puts-silencer-assault-weapons-ban/
And from your source:
"A 2004 critical review of firearms research by a National Research Council committee said that an academic study of the assault weapon ban "did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence outcomes". The committee noted that the study's authors said the guns were used criminally with relative rarity before the ban and that its maximum potential effect on gun violence outcomes would be very small."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Assault_Weapons_Ban
Mother Jones is on the Liberal approved reading list.[beam]

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