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Preventing Slaughter: Should Churchgoers Be Armed?

On Nov. 5th, Devin Patrick Kelley entered a rural Texas church during a Sunday morning service and opened fire, shooting churchgoers at random.

Kelley gunned down more than 40 people in total. Twenty-six of those victims have died from their injuries. The shooting victims included helpless parents, infants, and a pregnant mother. Kelley went aisle to aisle looking for victims. He shot babies point-black range.

The massacre might have been much worse if it were not for the actions of two men — one of them a former National Rifle Association instructor and gun enthusiast who lived next door to the church.

Stephen Willeford was at his home next door to the Sutherland Springs Church that fateful Sunday. His daughter told him that she heard gunfire at the church. He said he kept hearing very rapid shots and knew that he needed to do something because every shot that was fired off represented a person. Willeford spring into action, immediately retrieving his rifle from his AR assault rifle from his weapon safe.

The good Samaritan then ran barefoot over to the church and opened fire on the shooter from behind a pickup truck. Willeford said that he knew that he hit the killer. The gunman dropped his Ruger .556 AR-15 rifle, and exited the church running towards his SUV.

As Kelley fled the scene, Willeford ran to a pickup truck at the intersection and told the 27-year-old driver, Johnnie Langendorrff, that the person in the fleeing car had just shot up the church and that they needed to pursue him before he got away. Willeford jumped into the pickup truck, and the two trailed Kelley at more than 90 MPH. Meanwhile, they called 911 and kept the operator advised of the pursuit. Kelley was eventually run off the road by the two heroes. He hit a road sign and flipped his SUV into a ditch. When police arrived on the scene, Kelley was dead apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot.

Police say that Willeford and Langendorrff probably saved countless lives that day. Law enforcement called Willeford a hero for opening fire on the shooter causing him to stop shooting at helpless victims. They also said that both men were heroes for chasing the gunman and keeping 911 operators apprised of the situation. It is hard to say how many more helpless people Kelley would have murdered if he had gotten away.

Now, following the mass shooting, one Texas Attorney General is speaking out about his beliefs on the gun control debate. He believes that church-goers should be armed when they attend services.

Ken Paxton, a Texas Republican Attorney General, says that some parishioners should consider being armed or that churches should hire security. Paxton believes that something similar will happen again, and statistics on church shootings support this view.

According to the latest numbers, mass shootings now occur more frequently in the United States. Three of the deadliest shootings of the past 35 years has happened in just the last 18 months. The Sutherland Springs Church shooting was one of those three.

Attorney General Paxton believes that having armed members of the church or security will help the churches respond better when something like this happens again. In Texas, it is legal for churchgoers to carry a concealed weapon into a place of worship if they have a permit. The only time that it is prohibited in Texas is if an individual church forbids it — which they are fully within their right to do.

As is illustrated by Willeford’s actions, good guys with guns can help save lives. In 2007, 24-year-old gunman Matthew John Murray opened fire at the New Life Church in Colorado. Tragically, he managed to fatally shoot two people at the church before he was stopped by a courageous member. As that shooting unfolded, Jeanne Assam, a former Minneapolis Police Department officer, confronted Murray shooting him with her firearm. Murray subsequently died from gunshot wounds. The pastor of the church said that Assam probably saved 100 lives when she opened fire on the Murray.

Clearly, there is already evidence that armed citizens provide a deterrent to violent crime wherever they happen to be. Shouldn’t this naturally include churches as well?

~ 1776 Christian

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