New Hampshire church hosts active shooter drill amid rise in mass shooting incidents

Law enforcement officials investigate a mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.Nick Wagner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN via REUTERS

A church in New Hampshire has hosted an event to train people in how to survive an active shooter situation amid the rising number of mass shootings in the U.S.

Over 120 people attended a roughly two-hour session at the Grace Episcopal Church in Manchester on Sunday to learn how to deal with active shooter situations.

Terry Choate, co-founder of Hancock-based Blue-U Defense, argued that people should take a proactive approach rather than the passive, lock-down approach to shooter drills because in most situations, police and first responders do not arrive until after the suspect has inflicted considerable damage.

"When an incident like this happens there's going to be no one there to help you or save you except yourselves," Choate, a former team commander at the Monadnock Regional Special Response (SWAT) Team, said, according to the Concord Monitor.

During the seminar, Choate and his colleague, Joe Hileman, played back an audio from emergency responders in the 1999 Columbine school shooting and also examined people's responses to other past mass shootings.

Hileman, who is also a former Monadnock SWAT team member, noted that there has been an increase in interest around active shooter seminars following the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas last year. The massacre left at least 26 people dead, with victims ranging in age from 5 to 72-years-old.

"To see something like that happen in a rural part of Texas, people were like, well, actually, that could happen here," he said, according to Concord Monitor.

He noted that people attending the seminars in churches always ask if ushers should start carrying weapons.

Hileman and Choate told the attendees at Grace Episcopal Church that allowing ushers to have guns is an option, but the church may encounter potential legal problems associated with insurance and criminal liability.

The Rev. Dr. Marjorie Gerbracht-Stagnaro, the church's rector, said that she invited Blue-U to hold the seminar after she attended a session at a Nashua church.

"I think when you're an inner-city church, people are a lot more responsive to this sort of event," she said, as reported by Concord Monitor.

She narrated a recent incident in which a son of a parishioner was escorted out by police after he disrupted a service at the church. She said that while no one was hurt, the incident likely prompted many church members to attend the training seminar.

"And even though you're never really sure if you're ever going to be involved in a violent event, the reality is it's better to be prepared, mentally, spiritually, physically," she added.