'Times are different:' Nash County sheriff holds forum on guns in churches
Posted November 27, 2017 10:34 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 9:55 a.m. EDT
Nash County, N.C. — Following the recent attack at a Texas church, some met with law enforcement Monday night to discuss the threat of violence against places of worship and ways to keep churches safe.
The fact that times have changed is evident by the fact that more than 200 people showed up for the Nash County Sheriff’s Office’s place of worship security and safety training. Nash County Sheriff Keith Stone said he’s been in law enforcement for more than 30 years and never thought such a forum would be necessary.
Stone said the conversation he had with the group Monday night was in direct contrast to what his dad taught him as a child.
“My dad was a sheriff in Robeson County as I was coming up as a young boy and he taught me to never wear your gun in church,” Stone said.
Now, Stone is telling church leaders and members that, in the right circumstances and with proper training and planning, having armed people in church is OK. In many cases, it is even encouraged.
“The environment’s different, times are different and we’ve just got to change with the times,” Stone said.
Tragedies like the mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina and Sutherland Springs, Texas have congregations on alert.
Pastor Everett Silver of Dunimus Outreach Ministries feels small churches like his are often targets.
“Our first resort is to ask God to cover us, but at the same time, my minister of music, we’ve taken concealed carry classes. I’m concealed carry,” he said.
Stone said he wants people to be equipped and to know what to do individually and what their rights are collectively.
State law allows guns in churches and also allows churches to decide if they want to prohibit firearms.
A discussion about firearms in church is a controversial one, but many at Monday’s forum said it’s a simple decision.
“We have a safety team and they’re armed, have been armed for the last eight years. We’ve not had a service without an armed escort in the room,” said Pastor Mike Clarke.
Hoke, Harnett and Warren counties have hosted similar events.