Butler County pastors and law enforcement officers are encouraging local churches and other public places to have a safety plan in place after the country’s most recent mass shooting.
The deaths of 26 people Sunday at a Texas church — following the 2015 killing of nine people in a Charleston, S.C., prayer group — reveals why some churches have taken aggressive steps to keep worshipers safe — even putting guns in the hands of congregants and staff members.
The Middletown Police Department will meet with local church representatives this week to discuss possible plans and strategies, Police Chief Rodney Muterspaw told this news outlet.
The Texas shooting took place in a town where “everybody knows everybody,” Muterspaw said, comparing it to some rural areas in Butler County.
“Living proof this can happen anywhere, anytime,” he said. “You got to be prepared for anything. This will affect this town forever.”
Muterspaw noted that the Texas shooting came on the heels of the deadly shooting in Las Vegas and a fatal incident in New York. In five weeks, 92 people have been killed in these three attacks.
Muterspaw, 48, has worked in the police department for 27 years. He told this newspaper that he can’t remember a more violent time in American history.
“Nobody has an answer,” Muterspaw said. “People talk about gun laws and regulations, they talk about terrorism, they talk about the president, but all of that is irrelevant to the point that there is so much hate right now. People are killing regardless of how they are doing it. I don’t know what the solution is to it.”
The Rev. Lawrence Bishop II, pastor at Solid Rock Church in Monroe, one of the largest churches in Warren County, has allowed his congregation and staff to bring guns to services.
Ohio’s concealed-carry law generally bans guns in churches but allows firearms inside with a pastor or religious leader’s permission.
“We have lots of people who conceal-carry in our church,” he said. “From the choir, to the back of the church, to the sound man. I encourage anyone who has a license to carry a gun.”
Two other Butler County pastors, Lamar Ferrell at Berachah Church in Middletown and Curtus Moak, lead pastor at Hamilton Christian Center, said they have staff and congregants who carry weapons.
Moak said his church, which typically has 400 in attendance every Sunday, has an “active shooter process” and the security staff notes all access points and locks the doors soon after the service begins. He said police officers are members of the church and they carry weapons.
“We are not afraid to come to church,” Moak said.
Ferrell said if fear keeps people away from church, then the enemy wins.
“This is evil versus good. If we get to the point of fear, then we can’t bring light to dark places,” he said. “We feel safe with the Lord. Life here is not forever.”