On any given day, people in the United States are free to exercise their faith without fear of punishment. Participating in any type of religious service generally puts people’s minds at ease and gives them a sense of comfort and belonging. Unfortunately, for the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, PA, Saturday, October 27, 2018 was filled with fear and sadness instead of hope and happiness. What began as a joyous morning quickly ended with several people injured, including four police officers, and the senseless murder of nearly a dozen people.
No Warning = No Defense
Robert Bowers, the gunman who frequently shared his anti-Semitic views online but who was unknown to law enforcement, entered the Jewish synagogue and indiscriminately opened fire from the back of the room. Bowers had made no prior threats to the synagogue and had no criminal record, which makes this tragedy something that all individuals should bear in mind.
Random Violence Can Happen Anywhere
Eleven individuals lost their lives in the shooting and several more were injured in what has been called “likely the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in U.S. history.” Bowers’ actions qualify as a hate crime, an offense couched in a bias against others for one reason or another, and according to Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, “[Bowers] went into that synagogue deliberately intentionally not just to harm the individuals who were there but to terrorize the entire community.”
Faith-based hate crimes are nothing new, but in 2016, there were nearly 1,300 incidents pertaining to religion, which means individuals are at greater risk when engaging in their religious beliefs outside their homes. Couple this with the fact that most places of worship do not have a preparedness plan or armed personnel standing by, and the need to protect yourself becomes crystal clear.
Gain Control By Being Proactive
Leaving politics aside, it’s imperative that communities, congregations, and individuals adopt a plan to protect themselves in the event of a tragedy. While the Tree of Life Congregation had no such plan or policy in place, many other religious groups do. For example, many Kansas City synagogues have off-duty law enforcement present during Friday evening and Saturday morning services. Some keep their doors locked around the clock but give members access via a key fob. And security cameras are always rolling at Congregation Beth Torah.
As a CCW holder, or someone potentially seeking to carry on a daily basis, taking responsibility for your own safety just makes sense. With religious hate crimes accounting for 21.1% of all hate crimes in 2016, there is a one in five chance that the place you worship may be victimized. Carrying your legally issued firearm safely and discreetly gives you an advantage should something unexpected occur even within your own congregation. Talk with the elders in your church to see how the community can work together to keep one another safe. There’s still no guarantee against spontaneous violence but being armed and prepared may ultimately save lives.
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Concealed Carry = Clothing + Equipment + Training + Practice. It’s just math.