A new survey shows that most Americans – a full 76 percent – don’t want guns to be allowed in church facilities, but a man who lived through a terror attack on a church congregation that left nearly a dozen dead and dozens more wounded has a simple thought to ponder.
“A firearm in the hand is better than a policeman on the phone,” says Charl van Wyk, whose book, “Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense,” also has been turned into a film.
Van Wyk, who is credited with using a single handgun to scare off a team of terrorists attacking a church in South Africa in 1993, told WND that those who advocate for an unarmed congregation need to go back and read their Bibles again.
The comments from van Wyk come just weeks after two deadly shooting attacks, one at a theater in Aurora, Colo., that left 14 dead and another at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in which seven died.
In the wake of those tragedies, the Public Religion Research Institute took a survey asking about whether guns should be allowed in churches and other places.
The organization, which worked with Religion News Service on the poll, said its survey found that roughly three-quarters of Americans believe people should not be allowed to carry concealed guns in a church or place of worship (76 percent), in a government building (73 percent) or on a college campus (77 percent).
The survey said only one-third (32 percent) of white evangelical Protestants and 3-in-10 (27 percent) white mainline Protestants believe that people should be allowed to carry concealed guns to church, compared to 18 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans and 14 percent of Catholics.
According to The Church Report, PRRI’s research director, Daniel Cox, said, “Although the issue of gun control tends to divide Americans by party, gender, region and race, there is broad agreement among the public that there are some places where concealed weapons should be off limits.”
Regarding the problem of gun violence, he noted that 27 percent of respondents said stricter gun control would help, 22 percent cited better mental health screenings and support for those who want guns, 20 percent argued for a greater emphasis on God and morality in school and society, 14 percent want stricter security at public gatherings and 11 percent said allowing more private citizens to carry guns for protection is the answer.
The survey also found women favor stronger gun laws than men, 60-44 percent. And while Democrats favor stronger gun laws (72 percent), Republicans (65 percent) and tea-party members (78 percent) oppose them.
Van Wyk said the Bible simply doesn’t say to be unarmed and unprepared to defend oneself.
“Jesus clearly taught ‘if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.’ (Luke 22:36) Scripture further teaches, ‘If anyone does not provide for his relatives and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’ (1 Timothy 5:8) Provision includes protection!” he told WND in an emailed message from South Africa.
“Sometimes we also read into Scripture that which is not taught, e.g., ‘But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also’ (Matthew 5:39). This is dealing with our response to a personal insult. It should not be read to mean: ‘If someone murders your wife, let him murder your child too.’ The Bible clearly teaches, ‘A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well’ (Proverbs 25:26). Surely we would be ‘faltering before the wicked’ if we cannot protect worshipers in a church!”
He said the danger from being unarmed is extreme. Many of the worst mass shootings in recent U.S. history have been in places that prohibit guns, such as theaters and school campuses. Even on the Fort Hood post in Texas, where a Muslim is accused of a violent rampage that left 13 dead, the Army has a policy that soldiers should not be armed.
“Besides the mother’s womb, gun-free zones are the most dangerous places on earth,” he said.
Van Wyk argues strict gun control laws lead to increased crime, “both by thugs on the street, whose work environment is made safer; and thugs in government, because citizens will have no means to ensure the accountability of their rulers.”
He said the simple fact is that congregations cannot count on police to prevent attacks.
“One of the fallacies we need to deal with is that the police must stop the invasion of our churches by criminals,” he told WND. “The truth is that policemen cannot be everywhere all the time. They also cannot arrest someone ‘who looks suspicious’ but has not committed a crime. So, most times, police will clean up the mess after a crime has taken place.”
He continued: “The bottom line is that if someone, intent on doing evil, comes into a church, the congregation is going to be on their own without a policeman or security guard on hand. Criminals don’t attack if they think they’re going to be arrested.”
At a shooting at a Colorado Springs church several years ago, a potential massacre was avoided when an armed security guard fired on a gunman who already had killed several people outside the building and was heading for the sanctuary.
Van Wyk said people in South Africa need a law that allows citizens to defend a place of residence, place of work or sanctuary.
“At the end of the day, we need to be prepared to defend ourselves. The only person who can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun; nobody else will be of much help,” he said.
See Van Wyk describe his shooting experience and its aftermath:
It was on July 25, 1993 – the day that would become known as the day of the St. James Massacre – that terrorists invaded the St. James Church with automatic weapons. About a dozen members of the congregation were killed, and dozens more were injured.
But the terrorists fled when Van Wyk, who was carrying a handgun with him, returned fire, injuring one.
Van Wyk was recognized by authorities with a commendation for his actions, which likely saved dozens, if not hundreds, of lives.