Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!
Matthew Murray’s attack on members of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs last Sunday ended when an “armed volunteer” drew her weapon and shot him multiple times. Police say Murray died by his own hand, but it doesn’t change the fact the Jeanne Assam and others came to church carrying concealed weapons, and they did so with the blessing of church elders.
An armed congregation is now part of the emergency management plan in a good many places of worship. That’s what I learned from today’s Denver Post and this story titled, “Weapons in Church? For everything there is a time.” It was unsettling news to me, but I’m sure it was comforting to the dozens of New Life church members who are alive today thanks to Ms. Assam’s quick reactions and steady aim.
“It’s a sad necessity,” says Gary Schneeberger of Focus on the Family, another church in Colorado Springs. “This is the world we live in. Our organizations would be irresponsible if we weren’t prepared.”
Doug Olsen of the Woodman Valley Chapel is quoted in the Post story as well:
“At schools you can lock strangers out and tell the kids to watch out for strangers. A church should open its doors to everybody, according to the Bible. We want strangers. We want people who are in trouble.”
With each report of another violent act, my crisis manager instincts kick in. How would I handle it? What would I say to the families affected? To the community? To the press? Textbooks on crisis management tell us how to direct the aftermath. It’s really not that hard. The books don’t tell us how to anticipate or prevent the attacks, short of erecting wire fences and guard towers.
Is there a way to make our schools and churches safer? There sure is. Visit any airport to see how it’s done. But you’ll learn that minimizing risk also involves maximizing inconvenience and making yourself highly inaccessible. It’s effective, but bad for business. Ask any airline.
Metal detectors have been standard in some high schools for a long time. So have armed police officers and dope-sniffing dogs. Can militiamen at Macy’s be far off?
When tighter security measures come, and they will, how will our clients implement them without alienating customers and driving off business? How will it change the relationship with key stakeholders? And will it drive even more business away from bricks-and-mortar outlets to online venues?
Depressing? Yeah, it sure is. But doomsday scenarios are now part of the crisis-planning discussions in our offices AND in our classrooms. We brainstormed the topic just days after Virginia Tech last spring, and students were ready to approve my carrying a taser to class. (I was holding out for a .45 automatic.)
That discussion sure made me long for a PR class I took in 1974 in which our biggest challenge was pitching a story about purple martin houses to the editor of the Sunday Roto. (And you thought the 70s were tumultuous!)
I don’t expect you have a solution to propose. If you do, feel free, but I’d just as soon skip the gun-control rants if you don’t mind. While you’re at it, send me a flack jacket for Christmas. It’s the perfect gift for your old PR warrior.