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Armed Response

The Last Resort

an automatic pistol on a black bible

This article is based on the Safety Member Certification training modules “Basic Use of Force Laws” and “Active Shooter Response.”[1]

From the Bible

* David restrained the use of deadly force:

So David stayed his servants with these words, and suffered them not to rise against Saul (1 Samuel 24:7).

* Peter urged us to follow the law (when it does not require disobeying God):

Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well (Peter 2:13-14).


Almost all of us have watched movies and TV shows about the Wild West, private detectives, and police. Most of these are best known for violent action, especially with firearms. Notable are the few where the principal characters exercised constraint, avoiding gunfire unless and until it was the last resort. In a very few shows, deadly force was rarely used, and not at all in many episodes.

During a disruptive incident with a threat or display of force, an armed security person has to decide whether or not to draw one’s weapon. Two considerations are necessity and effectiveness.

On the Web

White Settlement, Texas, December 29, 2019 A transient man with mental issues came into the Sunday morning service at West Freeway Church of Christ wearing a wig, a false beard, and a long coat and sat down near the back.

When communion began, he stood up and approached a deacon who was serving. After saying a few words, he turned, pulled a shotgun from his coat, and turned back toward the deacon. A little ways beyond the deacon, a member of the security team rose and reached back into his suit coat to draw his handgun. He never got it into a shooting position. The gunman turned enough to shoot the team member, then shot the server. Another security team member had his gun out. When he got a clear shot, he fired, hitting the gunman in the head. This ended the shooting.

Some analysts who studied the live-stream video of the shooting pointed out that the first team member did not have enough time to draw and use his gun. If he had launched a tackle from his sitting position he’d have been a harder target, but he was a bit too far away for that. Since the security persons were suspicious of the suspect, should he have already had his gun in hand when the suspect got up?[2][3]

Buffalo, New York, November 24, 2022 A surveillance video shows a man carrying an AR-15 walking into the vestibule of a drug treatment center. Across from the reception window he fires one shot into a wall.

An unarmed security guard is there. While other people hide, he tackles the gunman, pinning him. Another guard comes to help hold the suspect down.[4]

North Wales, Pennsylvania, April 24, 2016 Two letters to The Guardian addressed the issue of frequent vandalism of churches in Britain. Claire Walker, Chief executive of the National Churches Trust, said that keeping churches open to the public throughout the week would deter vandals, since they were more likely to be seen.[3]

A young man in a foul mood came into a North Wales church on Sunday morning. He cursed the greeters then headed for an empty seat, one of two reserved for two members. When the young man was told this, he cursed again.

An usher and an assistant pastor tried to calm the young man down, but he kept yelling.

A church member on the other side of the church got up and went over to the young man. He pulled out a “badge” (really a gun permit) and pointed to his concealed handgun. They began to argue heatedly. The member pulled out the gun and the young man called the badge “fake” and said the gun was not real. He then threw a punch and the member fired a shot. The young man died in the hospital. 

The member told police that when he was slugged, he felt bodily threatened. He also said that in the past pointing to the gun had made persons walk away. The member was arrested, charged with voluntary manslaughter, and convicted.[5][6]

The Choice: To Shoot or Not Shoot

In a disruptive situation, an armed person has to decide whether or not to use the weapon. A deadly-force weapon should be the last resort, especially if it is a firearm.


The first consideration is, “Is it necessary?” A firearm should not be drawn unless a life is at stake. To put it another way, “Is this defending the lives of myself and others?” The level-of-force qualification is proportionality. If the assailant is only slapping, shoving, elbowing, etc., then there is no call to use deadly force unless the attack is extreme – such as a gang beating with life-threatening force like kicking the head of a downed victim. 

In regard to deadly force, there are legal issues, namely use-of-force laws. This includes not only the laws as written in the state’s criminal code, but also how courts have interpreted these laws. Assuming that defense is the justification for using lethal force, you need to know your state’s self-defense standard. 

There are three basic self-defense standards in state laws: 

About half the states have the Duty to Retreat. When you are threatened, you are required to try to escape or to find cover (if you can). State laws vary as to the degree of threat, how far you must retreat, where this applies, and when you may use physical defensive force, lethal and/or non-lethal. 

Several states have a Stand Your Ground law. This means that you have the right to defend yourself where you are by whatever means are necessary. However, if you do use deadly force or less-lethal force, or unarmed defense results in a serious injury, the investigation will likely include whether that level of force was necessary. 

The Castle Doctrine is the oldest legal provision for self-defense. Simply put, you have the right to defend yourself when on your property (whether yours by ownership, renting, or your usual place of business). This legal doctrine also varies by state. For instance, in some states your castle includes your vehicle – carjackers beware! 

Common law for self-defense (meaning the standards for defense are not specifically stated) generally resembles the Castle Doctrine and/or Stand Your Ground. In this case, the standing law is based on court decisions where self-defense was claimed.


A prime consideration in the means of defense is how effective it is. One example is the security team member in the West Freeway Church of Christ. He did not have time to draw his weapon and was shot before he could do anything to the shooter. For those who say he should have tackled the suspect, he was far enough away to make that difficult, but at least the charge could have disrupted the shooter, maybe sparing the deacon.

The general rule is that if you are a little more than arm’s length away, it’s faster and more effective to use your arms, leg, or body against a gunman, especially if he is still pulling out his weapon. If you are using a cane, it’s already in your hand. Now it’s a defensive weapon. 

Another consideration is the setting. Do you have a clear shot? We do not want to hit innocent persons. 

If you are not facing a drawn loaded weapon pointing at you, try verbal de-escalation. Here’s a hint: practice this in simulation drills, with one person acting as the assailant. Otherwise you’re more likely to freeze in a real situation. 

If your defensive spray is quicker to pull out than your concealed firearm, that may be a viable option.

What if You Do Use Force?

If you do use deadly force (whatever the weapon), there may be legal proceedings. These can be time-consuming and costly. That is one reason why deadly force is the last resort. Take, for instance, the West Freeway shooting. Everyone knew that Jack Wilson did the right thing by shooting an active killer, but since there was a fatality, the case had to go through the process with a grand jury deciding whether he would be charged. It took nine months before the grand jury decided to not indict him. 

Fortunately for Jack, he was a subscriber to U.S. LawShield. He made a phone call from the scene, and a lawyer arrived while the police were still there. All the legal costs were covered.[7]

Now U.S. LawShield partners with Mace Security International in training persons in use-of-force: The Mace Civilian Pepper Spray Training course.[8] 

U.S. LawShield is an affiliate of Sheepdog Church Security.[9]


Learn how to defend yourself and others without using deadly force, which should be the last resort.

Training Resources

Training is essential to an effective safety team. Have all your church safety team members trained and certified through Sheepdog Church Security’s Safety Member Certification. The program has eight training modules (classes), each with a certification test. Members who take all eight classes, passing the test for each one, will be certified for two years as a Certified Safety Member. Re-certification will 

  1. Refresh lessons already learned
  2. Update information and add new data
  3. Introduce new techniques and tools
  4. Inform of changes in laws 

There are two modes of training: Self-Paced Training (individual instruction) and Online Training Events (live Zoom classes). Any combination or solely through on mode may be used. For instance, Self-Paced Training can be used for a missed Online Training Events class.[1] 

Additionally, webinars will be scheduled. The latest one was on May 23. Look for more in the future.[10]

Aspects of this article are covered in past articles, such as:

  1. "The Critical Choice: To Shoot or Not Shoot"[11] 
  2. "Legal Force: Federal and State laws on the Use of Force"[12] 
  3. "They Have You Covered: They Have You Covered"[13]

Special Download

We have a special download, the Use of Force Training Record. The record template follows a page of information about the Use of Force. The three main headings are Use of Force, Training is Essential, and Training Recommendations. The Training Record itself covers six training topics:

Click *HERE* to get the Use of Force Training Record. You’ll be subscribed to our weekly email update.[14] 


  1. Kris Moloney, Certification, Sheepdog Church Security Academy, © 2021 []. 
  2. “West Freeway Church of Christ shooting,” Wikipedia, []. 
  3. Brandon Curtis, “Moments Before And After West Freeway Church of Christ Shooting,” Concealed Nation, Published December 29, 2019, Updated December 30, 2019 []. 
  4. Emily Mae Czachor, “Video shows unarmed guard blocking gunman from entering Buffalo treatment clinic,” CBS News, November 15, 2022 []. 
  5. Vince Lattanzio, “Worshipper Faces Manslaughter Charges in Deadly Church Shooting in Montgomery County,” NBC10 Philadelphia, April 28, 2016, Updated April 29, 2016 []. 
  6. News Staff, "Man found guilty in Montgomery County church shooting," WPVI-TV, November 3, 2016 []. 
  7. Jack Wilson and Katherine Reed (Atty.), "The Voice of a Hero: Jack Wilson's Story" (video transcript), U.S. LawShield, October 1, 2020 []. 
  8. Staff, "Mace Spray Training and You," U.S. LawShield, September 12, 2023 []. 
  9. U.S. LawShield, Sheepdog Church Security, affiliate link, []. 
  10. Kris Moloney, Guardian Insights Webinar Series, Sheepdog Church Security []. 
  11. WGV, "The Critical Choice: To Shoot or Not Shoot," Sheepdog Church Security, October 18, 2022 []. 
  12. WGV, "Legal Force: Federal and State laws on the Use of Force," Sheepdog Church Security, February 10, 2020 []. 
  13. WGV, "They Have You Covered: They Have You Covered," Sheepdog Church Security, May 31, 2022 []. 
  14. Kris Moloney, “Use of Force Training Record,” Sheepdog Church Security, © Copyright 2019 [].