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Guns in Columbia churches: places of worship talk security following deadly Texas shooting

Handguns in a display case.
ABC 17 News
Handguns in a display case.

Multiple Columbia churches say they have security teams on standby in case of active threat situations.

Two people were shot and killed Sunday in Texas when a gunman opened fire. The shooting was quickly interrupted by a member of the church's voluntary security team who shot the suspect.

Joe Gilbert, the general manager at Target Master's in Columbia, said the guns in the church made it a safer space.

"The sooner that the assailant is stopped, the fewer people who are shot or killed," Gilbert said. "That's what was so good about this, people responded almost instantly. It could have been much worse."

In accordance with Missouri state laws, guns are not allowed in churches "without the consent of the minister or person or persons representing the religious organization that exercises control over the place of religious worship."

ABC 17 News spoke with members of several Columbia churches. Some of the places of worship have a security team in place that prepares for incidents like the one in Texas.

One individual said he is the head of security at his church. There are certain members of the congregation who carry weapons in the church, and they prepare for active shooter situations. The individual declined to publicly name his church in order to ensure the safety of the congregation.

Luke Hettinger is a pastor at another Columbia church. He said his church, Anthem, tries its best to prepare for emergencies.

"We want to be a place where broken people can come and experience health and healing and wholeness," Hettinger said. "Unfortunately, because of the brokenness, it does make us have to think about what do we have to do in situations like that."

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Molly Stawinoga

Molly Stawinoga is ABC 17’s weekday morning anchor and a reporter at ABC 17 News. Molly joined the news team in 2017 while studying political science, journalism and Spanish at the University of Missouri. She is originally from DeKalb, Illinois.


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