Lawmakers push bill to better prepare houses of worship for potential attacks

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The hostage standoff at a Texas synagogue Saturday shed light on the value of training at houses of worship.

>>> STREAM CHANNEL 9 EYEWITNESS NEWS LIVE <<<

The hostages credited active shooter training they had in the months before the incident with helping them escape.

READ: Washington justices uphold $18M fine in GMO-labeling case

Members of Congress are pushing to help houses of worship around the country get that kind of training and other resources to protect its members.

“We know there are persistent threats to places of worship,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

Hassan co-sponsored the bipartisan “Pray Safe Act” with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) which was first introduced last year.

The bill would create a federal clearinghouse for faith-based organizations to access information about best practices and training opportunities if there is an attack.

READ: Georgia DA asks for special grand jury in election probe

It would also provide information about federal grant programs available to assist the faith-based organizations.

“Our houses of worship should be the places we feel safest and it’s really deeply troubling that it’s no longer the case but that’s why we have to come together to find ways to share information, get resources to our houses of worship and make sure that people can feel safe there again,” said Hassan.

“Saturday’s hostage situation at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue should serve as a wake-up call,” said Portman. “It’s time for the Senate to pass my bipartisan Pray Safe Act to better protect our Jewish communities. We must ensure that faith-based organizations and houses of worship have the resources, assistance, and training they need to secure their facilities in the face of targeted violence. The Pray Safe Act will also provide information on how houses of worship can access information on federal resources and grant programs that will improve their safety and security.”

The bill did pass in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but it hasn’t moved forward to a full vote in the Senate or in Congress yet.

READ: FBI warning: criminals using fake QR codes to steal money

We asked Sen. Hassan about where the bill stands given the renewed spotlight on the pressing issue.

“Senator Portman and I are doing everything we can,” said Sen. Hassan. “It did get through our committee and now it needs to get to the floor and we’re pushing to see that happens. This is really urgent.”

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.