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The man accused of last month’s mass shooting in a Tennessee church was indicted yesterday on two counts of first-degree murder and eight other counts. It seems likely that Jim David Adkisson’s public defender will seek an insanity defense. He wants the case in Knox County’s criminal court so he can get funds for mental health experts.
Meanwhile, in nearby Bradley County, the sheriff and county attorney say they have worked out concerns about a “Church Protection Plan” to deputize and arm churchgoers to provide protection during Sunday services. Sheriff Tim Gobble hopes to start the program Jan. 1 — after the Christmas rush.
“We realize this is not for everybody,” Gobble said in the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “Some churches have hired security or have members who are there off duty. And some may say no.”
Are there some who will say yes to guns in church? WWJD? Who Would Jesus Deputize?
No doubt worship services are easy targets for crazed killers, but so are schools, malls and business offices. If we’re going to deputize and arm the deacons, why not the teachers, store clerks and office managers? If the solution to defending ourselves against people with guns is to give more people more guns, why not turn every city into Dodge City?
I don’t mean to pick on Sheriff Gobble. He’s trying to do his job as he sees it. “My Special Deputy Church Protection Program supports the primary function and purpose of government, which is to protect its citizens,” he wrote in a letter to his fellow citizens defending his plan. People “have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, without undue fear that an armed intruder will enter a church building and begin shooting.”
Undue fear? Has the sheriff spent any time in an inner-city neighborhood? How about Chicago, where three dozen public school students have been killed in the past year. In a recent survey by the Chicago Sun-Times, half of all fifth- through eighth-graders said their “greatest fear” was getting shot. Nearly three-quarters have heard gunshots in their neighborhood. More than a third know a friend or relative who has been shot to death.
That’s undue fear. Those are people who need a protection plan. Maybe the church’s most faithful response to gun violence isn’t to arm itself inside its sanctuaries but to go out into its own neighborhoods and work to disarm others.