Five Practical Things the New Zealand Mosque Shooting Teaches Us About Church Security

At the last count, 49 people lay dead from two Mosque shootings in New Zealand earlier today. Striking in the city of Christchurch, a terrorist attack was conducted by one who reporters say was a “white nationalist.” Tragically, the assault was captured live and played before a shocked world on social media. Even more tragically, it seems that advanced notice and early warnings were given.

As the unarmed worshippers were gunned down, predictably, the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, described the assault as “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence,” and then promised more gun laws.

It was already illegal to gun down innocent people, and laws didn’t stop it.

You can watch the footage here (although it will probably soon be pulled). It is extremely graphic, and we provide it merely for the sake of assessing tactical active shooter situations in places of worship.

We learn a number of things from this short video of the atrocity, which may be valuable learning tools for Christians as they gather for worship this Sunday.

First, the gunman approached the facilities in full tactical gear and rifle(s). The video from the man’s helmet-cam demonstrates that he was walking in full view of the Mosque for more than a minute. He also began to fire while still yet outside. Worship facility security must start on the outside of the facility, and not on the inside. There is no rule that says gunmen have to get inside before they open fire. It is incumbent upon the church security team to watch the outside as well as the inside, because it is outside that they will probably first encounter the threat and there provide the first line of defense.

Second, the gunman did not appear to be a professional. There was nothing in the gunman’s behavior, firing, or room clearance that indicated he was an experienced gunman. He did not take the necessary tactical movements learned by SWAT teams or military special forces to enter the building or ‘sweep the room.’ He was not proficient with his magazine changes. However, a firearm in the hands of an inexperienced gunman will always win over no firearm in the hands of innocent victims. The gunman very likely could have been stopped by someone else with a gun, even if they weren’t any more firearm proficient.

Third, the gunman faced no resistance. People appear to have frozen in their place. Others responded belatedly. One man appeared to try to run by the gunman but did not physically resist him. The poor man, now deceased, was actually in the best position to end the melee by his sheer proximity to the gunman, but that thought probably did not enter his mind in his moment of panic. If there were an active shooter situation in your worship facility, fighting back (even with chairs or fists) is far better than freezing in place or being shot in the back while running.

Fourth, the mass of casualties compounded around the center and furthest ends of rooms and hallways. As stated above, the shooter did not ‘sweep the room’ as tactical specialists are trained. The left-right movement of the rifle barrel along perpendicular walls to the entrance is usually practiced because more alert opponents will wait beside the doorways to pounce when the doorway is breached. However, untrained victims will naturally flee to the furthest point from the gunfire, even if that furthest point is a wall that forms a dead-end. If in such a similar situation, one should gather along the walls closest to the point of entry (out of sight) and close enough to the door to physically incapacitate the gunman the moment the barrel of his gun is seen entering.

Fifth, running may not be the best option even if attacking the subject is not an option. Several were killed attempting an escape down or across a hallway, but their retreat put them directly into the “kill radius” and literal shooting gallery. If running puts one in the line of fire, it is not worth retreating. Likewise, it is important to know the difference between cover and concealment (click here for a quick lesson).

Tragedies like this should make all worshippers stop to consider their planned response to an active shooter situation.

  1. Do you have a security team?
  2. Is your security team posted at or in front of the door?
  3. Does your facility allow open or concealed carry by church members? Are certain worshippers encouraged to carry?
  4. Do you have triage and medical supplies stashed within the facility for easy access?

For more information on church security and how you can be more prepared for the dangerous times we live in, click here for resources from Brotherhood Mutual.

Please, please pray for the Muslims who are suffering the tragic loss of their friends and family.

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