Social media users took sides in a debate about bringing guns to places of worship after racist gunmen targeted a Black church in Kentucky and a Pittsburgh Jewish Synagogue in separate incidents.
On Wednesday, white supremacist Gregory Bush reportedly tried but failed to enter a predominantly Black church in Jeffersontown, Kentucky before allegedly killing two African-Americans at a Kroger supermarket. And on Saturday morning, an alleged gunman, Robert Bowers, went on a rampage, killing at least 11 people and injuring six others.
President Donald Trump, as with previous church and school mass shootings, advocated on Saturday for armed guards at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.
“If there was an armed guard inside the temple, they would have been able to stop him,” Trump told reporters.
There were mixed reactions to calls for armed security, as gun violence becomes more commonplace at houses of worship across the nation. There were more shootings in Christian churches between 2006 and 2016—147 of them—than in the 25 years prior.
Jeffersontown Police Chief Sam Rogers believed surveillance video shows Bush attempting to enter the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown on Wednesday afternoon, approximately 10 to 15 minutes before the Kroger shooting, according to the Courier-Journal.
For African-Americans, this brings back memories of white nationalist Dylann Roof walking into the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina and gunning down nine Black worshipers during Bible study in 2015.
When asked about the synagogue shooting, Michael Eisenberg, the immediate past president of Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue, told CNN affiliate WPXI that doors to the temple are normally open on Saturdays, but there’s a police presence during the high holidays.
Many security experts warn that allowing congregants to bring guns to worship services could create more problems than it solves.
“I’m not against people being armed in the church, but I’m saying they need to be trained so if there is an emergency, they can respond and react professionally,” Larry Johnson, director of security at Rhema Bible Training College in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, told ABC News after a gunman killed 26 worshippers in Sutherland Springs, Texas in 2017. Armed congregants could inadvertently kill innocent people in an emergency, he underscored.