Several pastors around the nation joined the gun-control debate in the wake of the mass shooting that occurred at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17.
Dylann Roof, 21, who is white, has pleaded not guilty in the attack, viewed by some as a racial hate crime, which left nine members including one of the church's pastors, dead of gunshot wounds, according to The Wall Street Journal
Here are three pastors and congregations that have taken up firearms and initiated training since the Charleston shooting occurred.
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New Outreach Christian Center
Charlotte, North Carolina-area pastor Brenda Stevenson of the New Outreach Christian Center plans to purchase and carry a weapon to protect her flock, she told NBC News Charlotte
"We need protection. I want them to know 'Have no fear. God is here,' but we got two more members. Smith, and Wesson," Stevenson said, noting that in some of their church's outreach ministries, they come in contact with people in the community who have been frightening. She added that her congregation has offered its support for her decision.
"I'm just telling you the truth. I've seen, especially during the holidays. They're hurting, they're stressed out, and they don't know which way to turn, and some of them are loose on the handle," Stevenson told NBC.
"I am not prepared to use it at this point, but when I get through taking the course, and get the permit, yes," Stevenson said.
The Potter's House
The Rev. E. Christopher Hill, who works as lead pastor at The Potter’s House in Denver, has instituted a comprehensive new security plan for his congregation, which has 7,000 members. It includes a new security system, cameras, patrols as well as armed guards on duty for each service, he told The New York Times
“We don’t want it to interfere with worship, but there are people who feel called to be… what we would call the safety net,” he told the newspaper.
Hi security team is filled with former and current military and law enforcement officers and civilians.
“There’s no way to look beyond the fact that Colorado has been specifically visited with great tragedy,” he said, noting Columbine and Aurora shootings. “We now live in an America where you must be vigilant.”
He added to the Times: “You are not safe on a plane. You are not safe in an elementary school. You are not safe in a high school. You are not safe in a movie theater,” he said. “Guess what? You are not safe in a church.”
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The Celebration Center
In Chesterfield County, Virginia, a nondenominational storefront church with about 175 members, The Celebration Center, hosted a concealed carry handgun class for its members, which was also opened to the public, the Chesterfield Observer reported
. The classes were taught by a couple who are parishioners.
David Van Buren, one of the firearms class teachers, noted that church members have a Second Amendment right to carry their weapons. But he said the church could benefit from a trained security team and also an emergency plan for the future.
The church's lead pastor Danny Meads said the class was to make sure his members are prepared if they are even in an active shooter situation, the Observer reported.
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