The fatal shooting of nine church members in a Charleston, South Carolina church in June has prompted church members in Hinesville’s Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church to take action to ensure something similar doesn’t happen here.
The security team, which is responsible for the safety of its church members, recently underwent training to learn how to respond to an active-shooter threat should the need arise while members are conducting worship.
Malliciah Faison, who heads the security team, said the training has become necessary in light of the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church, where members of a congregation were holding Bible study when a lone gunman fired on the group, along with a recent shooting in Oasis Tabernacle Church in East Selma, Alabama, in which a man shot his girlfriend and child and others during a church service.
When asked why he felt there was a need for such training involving firearms in a facility where people should feel safe, Faison said, “I’m a kid from the South, and church was called a sanctuary for a reason. And yes, it’s a sad state of affairs, but someone has to step up to protect the rest of the congregation.”
Faison said the security team went through three weeks of training in September with Liberty Firearm Training and learned to handle situations such as medical emergencies, disruptive individuals and an active shooter during worship services.
Faison said he and his security team wanted to be proactive in the event of an emergency.
“We don’t want to get caught short,” he said. “We want to be prepared, and the only way we could think of doing it was to get prepared by getting more training.”
Mark Rich, the CEO of Liberty Firearms Training, said Mount Zion’s security team received eight hours of firearms training as well as extensive training in helping victims of heart attacks and other medical emergencies.
Rich said the idea to provide training to churches, schools and other targets of opportunities stemmed from the school and mall shootings nationwide.
“In the past few years, we have seen an increase in the number of active shooters in the schools, in mall areas, and here recently we’ve had a lot of churches involved,” he said.
According to Rich, these facilities are targets of opportunity.
Rich said participants are given the training they will need to handle any crisis that may arise, a point Faison did not dispute. Faison and his security team, which is composed of ex-military personnel, felt the money spent on the training was well worth it.
“A lot of us are past military guys, but we didn’t have the type of training that’s needed for an active-shooter situation, so we had to reach out to someone,” Faison said. “And Mark and his team came in and taught us a lot of things we needed to know and gave us a path to the future for even getting better at these things.”
The three-week course ended with a live exercise featuring a heart-attack victim, an angry church visitor and a finale in which the security team had to engage an active church shooter with plastic pellet guns. In the shooting scenario, a church member sustained a head wound and was killed while a quick-thinking security-team member grabbed Rich — who played the role of the pastor — and knelt him behind the lectern as the rest of the security engaged the shooter, wounding him.