Kirby: Active shooter at church — where you gonna go?

Robert Kirby

Fire drills may be common in schools, offices and other buildings, but I’ve only experienced such an exercise at church once. It took place years ago when a kid named Preston pulled the alarm on a dare. His mother kept his dad from killing him.

It was scary at first, a piercing and pulsating screech that seized everyone’s attention. A drunk couldn’t have slept through it, much less a high priest.

The church members milled about, eventually finding their way out of the building. Kids screamed, adults hollered, and the fire department showed up. All in all, a pleasant alternative to Sunday school.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s important to practice safety measures wherever congregated human life can possibly be at risk. But can it go too far?

Someone on Facebook recently announced that his Latter-day Saint stake president has called for wards in his area to occasionally practice active-shooter drills during church.

Active shooter refers, of course, to someone showing up in a crowd and shooting people because he’s aggrieved about … hell, who knows?

It would seem, on its face, that the stake president in this matter is merely exercising caution in a world where the mentally disturbed have access to rapid-fire guns. In terms of predictability, active shooter is on a par with other disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes and presidential elections.

Not everyone would be happy about active-shooter drills in church, believing that what to do while getting shot at is not something that needs to be practiced there. The same could be said of concerts, schools and parties.

But churches are generally known for their defenseless congregations, particularly when the leaderships have declared that worship spaces are no place for guns.

I carried a gun to church for 10 years. I was a cop at the time, and long experience had taught me that people were no more trustworthy in church than they were out.

Besides, everyone in the congregation knew I was a cop and would expect me to do something if things went terrifyingly awry. Fortunately for all concerned — especially me — they never did.

I did give it some thought. I decided that if someone were to march into the chapel with an assault rifle and a clown mask, I could either choose the priesthood or a pistol. I went with the one I knew misfired the least when called upon.

I’m not exactly sure how an active-shooter drill would go in a Latter-day Saint ward, not without traumatizing a bunch of children and those prone to losing their minds in an emergency. My guess: It would go badly.

Back in the day, students practiced atomic bomb drills by scrambling under our desks at school to avoid falling debris. It scared some kids.

My thoughts on the matter were divided. While it made perfect sense — in my kid brain — to blow up a school, I just couldn’t see the Russians wasting a missile on one. Besides, there wasn’t a desk built that could protect a kid from radiation.

Speaking of which, the entire point of church is to prepare everyone for the largest active-shooter scenario the world has ever known: the Second Coming.

If you think there’s no comparison, then you’ve obviously been extra good. Way better than me.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.