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Churches value security training offered by local sheriff's office

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WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - A Texas community is still recovering after more than two dozen people are shot and killed during a service on Sunday. Now, more and more churches in our area are looking to step up their security.

News 5 learned in some cases, it involves designating an armed group of parishioners.

Pastor David Robbins and a security team at Gospel Tabernacle Church near Abingdon feel a responsibility to protect their congregation. Around 100 people attend the church each Sunday. Two weeks ago, they did security training with the county sheriff's department.

"Even though a church may not be like another business, I think it may be handled such as that when it comes to situations like this, whether you're a pastor, a deacon, an elder, whatever that person may be called at a particular church. You're not only called to teach the truth to the people, but to keep them safe while they're here," Robbins said.

After Sunday's tragic shooting at church in Texas that left more than two dozen people dead, Robbins said that new aspect of his role is urgent.

"We felt like we needed to speed things up as far as what we needed to do with the safety of the church," Robbins said.

The church's safety plan now includes surveillance cameras and and a team of parishioners who hold concealed handgun carry permits.

"Obviously churches weren't built with security in mind and unfortunately the day in time that we live in, you need to start thinking about security," Major Byron Ashbrook said. Ashbrook hosts the sessions for the Washington County, Virginia Sheriff's Office.

He said more than 30 churches have participated in the three years the department has offered the course. They have traveled as far as Mountain City to let church members know of appropriate responsibilities and potential pitfalls.

Ashbrook said, "With carrying a weapon comes great responsibility, it's not something you can take lightly. It's not something you can throw in your purse or throw on and not think about it."

Pastor Robbins tells us implementing the cameras cost less than a thousand dollars. He said it is an investment worth making.

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