Guns in church a growing trend to keep congregation safe

By Margaret Kavanagh, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, March 07, 2014, 6:42 AM EST

An increase in shootings and violence in Florida and nationwide has prompted many churches to be proactive and increase their own security in ways some might not expect -- with guns in church.

"Unfortunately, there is a need for it in the world today," said a local man we spoke with, who didn't want to reveal his identity, because he goes to church armed and ready to protect the congregation if he has to do so.

"They are trying to teach you about your journey with God, and they don't want distractions," said Craig Dixon, owner of Bethel Defense, a company that trains religious leaders how to protect themselves. "Someone wearing a gun beside you can be a major distraction."

Dixon's company teaches pastors and church staff to use handcuffs, batons and special lights that can be used to distract someone causing a problem. Church leaders are also taught how to use stun guns and handguns.

"We consider the gun to be the last alternative," Dixon explained.

Leaders at Journey Christian Church, in Apopka, said they have had to increase security to adjust with the times.

"We regret that we have to do it, but it's just what we feel like we need to do," said Roddy Conner, the church's director of operations.

Last year, Journey Christian Church hired a deputy to park outside. Conner said after each service, a security team conducts a sweep of the grounds, looking for anything suspicious.

The church also added security cameras and a team of volunteers to monitor each service.

"We don't want to be too out front about it," said Conner. "It's not something that we are trying to show off. We just want to know that we are prepared."