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TX lawmakers say church gun carry law, armed parishioners stopped deadly shooting

Gov. Greg Abbott, left, and Dennis Bonnen, right. (Jay Janner/Austin-American Stateman/TNS)
December 30, 2019

Republican officials in Texas are crediting the actions of a church security team, enabled by new laws allowing concealed firearms in church buildings, for stopping a deadly shooting attack on Sunday in White Settlement, Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed several gun bills into law in June 2019, including one that permits the carrying of a concealed firearm in a church, with the permission of the church. According to Fox News, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick credited the change of laws for enabling members of the West Freeway Church of Christ to stop the gunman after he opened fire and killed two parishioners.

Patrick also recognized the speedy response of the two church security volunteers who took action to stop the shooter.

The gunman was fatally shot within six seconds after opening fire in the church.

“The immediate responder is the most important,” Patrick said. “The citizen responder. Because even though the chief’s brave officers were here in less than a minute … by the time they got here, the shooting was over. And that always happens, that over 50 percent of shootings, our first responders, it’s usually over when they get there, no matter how hard they try.”

The church’s senior minister, Britt Farmer, also praised the actions of his congregation. He told the Dallas Morning News that the congregation lost two great men, “but it could have been a lot worse, and I am thankful our government has allowed us the opportunity to protect ourselves.”

The gunman, who still remains unidentified, reportedly entered the church with a shotgun. He sat down before the 11 a.m. service and stood up to begin shooting after the congregation had settled in. His motives remain unclear as police continue to investigate the attack.

Lawmakers proposed the new legislation allowing for the carrying of firearms in a church setting, in the year after 26 people were killed at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.

“We have learned many times over that there is no such thing as a gun-free zone,” state Sen. Donna Campbell, a co-sponsor of the church gun legislation, said at the time of the bill’s passage. “Those with evil intentions will violate the law and carry out their heinous acts no matter what. It makes no sense to disarm the good guys and leave law-abiding citizens defenseless where violent offenders break the law to do great harm.”

Former Democratic presidential candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke responded to the Sunday shooting to say “what we are doing in Texas, what we are doing in this country, when it comes to guns is not working.”

O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, ran on a presidential campaign platform that emphasized stricter gun laws, including confiscatory measures to remove guns.

Fellow Texan and Democratic presidential hopeful Julian Castro also expressed his condolences for the attack and suggested actions could be taken to stop similar attacks.

Castro has also adopted a policy platform focused on new gun control legislation and, according to his campaign website, would include executive orders as part of his effort to stop gun violence.