WASHINGTON - After a gunman allegedly murdered 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue, there is a growing discussion over whether armed guards need to be stationed inside places of worship.
In Washington D.C., the police department dispatched officers to guard several synagogues in the city in the immediate aftermath of the Pittsburgh shooting.
Now, several officials in the D.C. area's Jewish community say a permanent security presence is needed.
Some national security experts are urging all synagogues and churches to reevaluate their security. Among the suggestions are forming security teams, hardening buildings, monitoring the perimeter around religious facilities and training leadership in active shooter response.
Ron Halber, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, said those discussions are already underway and the deadly attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh is a game-changer.
"I do believe it would be appropriate to say that part of those discussions will be to what extent do we want armed personnel,” he said. “We are not talking about random congregants walking around. We are talking about the utilization of professional security services to defend our institutions.”
On Saturday, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham announced following the attack in Pittsburgh an increased presence of officers at synagogues in the District. While D.C. police’s Special Liaison Branch is contacting religious leaders, they stress there is no known credible threat currently.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser told FOX 5 that D.C. law enforcement and Homeland Security are ready and prepared to deal with potential incidents at any places of worship.
However, she took a different approach in preventing attacks by saying "more guns don't make us more safe." She said she wants both public officials and private citizens to focus more on stopping hate speech and heated political rhetoric.
"A really disturbing rise of hate and hate finding a safe place,” Bowser said. “So what we are focused on is we have a protocol unfortunately that we engage to make sure that the public safety needs, if they need to be buttressed at any particular facility, that they are doing that.”