Austin TX Jan 17 2017 Additional security measures could soon be available for religious organizations. It's in response to growing concern over mass shooting incidents in public spaces, including churches.
Churches are often known as safe havens but nowadays they could be the center of an attack.That's why State Representative Jason Villabla of Dallas filed a bill this session.
"Well if you look around the country, you're seeing that people who seek to harm us are now looking for what's referred to as soft targets. These are places that are not likely to be people who will be armed or security. so think of elementary schools, think of theaters and think of religious organizations."
The bill would allow churches to use volunteers or hire private individuals to be security officers as long as they undergo 40 hours of training. 10 of those hours is firearms training.
Reverend Eric Gates from Central Christian Church in downtown Austin says he supports the bill. "That's an unfortunate reality of the world we live in. It's something that I wish I didn't have to think about in the back of my mind but it's something that I need to be aware of. It's something I want the congregants to be aware of."
Currently in Texas, religious organizations must rely on private security companies to safeguard their congregations. It's been an obstacle for many due to the high cost.
Central Christian Church has been fortunate enough to have security ever since the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
Reverend Gates says they've had a few incidents that made them nervous in the past which is why he believes being proactive is necessary.
"We would have just random people come in off the street because we are on Guadalupe and they would walk directly up to me during the middle of a service. And the congregants would be standing there, jaws dropped kind of frozen not being able to do anything," Reverend Gates says.