26 People Killed in Texas Church Mass Shooting

The United States is facing the aftermath of yet another mass shooting thanks to a horrific series of events in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday, when a man stormed into a church and killed 26 people, wounding dozens more. As the usual cycle of “thoughts and prayers” and blame plays out on social media and elsewhere, many of us are left asking: Why were there 378 mass shootings and counting in 2017? Why can’t we stop this cycle?

Here’s what we know: The shooter, a 26-year-old white man, was dishonorably dismissed from the Air Force in 2012 because of a history of violence against his wife and child. That history of intimate partner violence clearly continued through to his second wife, but despite the fact that he was ineligible to own guns, he came to church armed not with a Bible and fellowship for his community, but an assault rifle and a ballistic vest.

Early reports suggest he may have attacked the church because of a dispute with his in-laws. His decision to enter a church during services and start shooting led to the deaths of completely innocent bystanders, one as young as 18 months, another as old as 77. About half of those killed were children. After he fled the scene, he was pursued by two bystanders — “good guys with guns” who failed to stop the shooting, but did chase his vehicle until he crashed, at which point he apparently shot himself.

Representative Steve Scalise, who knows firsthand what it’s like to sustain serious injuries in a mass shooting, offered only “prayers.” The president made a noncommittal statement — a far cry from his ferocious calls for the death penalty for the suspect in last week’s violent attack in New York. Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, a lion for gun control, issued a searing indictment of the nation’s inaction.

So what can we do? Senator Mitch McConnell shrugged his shoulders dismissively, suggesting it’s just too hard to stop evil people. We’ve heard this logic before, especially from groups like the National Rifle Association. We know that the United States is facing a unique and distinctive epidemic of violence, which suggests there is something unusual about our status quo — and the widespread availability of guns seems to be a strong factor.

Some officials, including the president, have attempted to turn this around on “mental illness,” saying that something must be done about mentally ill people if we want to stop gun violence. These kinds of comments are stigmatizing and inaccurate. Mentally ill people, including those with severe mental illness, are far more likely to be the victims of violence, and when they are dangerous, it’s primarily to themselves. When it comes to firearms, mentally ill people are less likely to commit gun crime.

Dragging mental health into the conversation clouds the picture, doesn’t protect us from violence, and makes the mentally ill community more vulnerable by reiterating myths about dangerousness and mental health. Many people also don’t consider the dangerous implications of the profiling proposals some champion, like breaching medical privacy, restricting freedom of movement, and limiting personal choice.

The public has focused on the fact that this killer had a history of intimate partner violence, in addition to a history of animal abuse. People who engage in acts of violence without facing consequences usually continue to be violent, and may escalate that behavior over the long term. Allegedly, he had been threatening his mother in law with harassing texts, which fits into a pattern of abusing the women around him. Even after being courtmartialed because of his violent acts, the killer persisted in abuse and harassment because that was his way of life.

While the Senate Majority Leader seems to be unsure about what to do when it comes to gun crime, most Americans seem to have a pretty good handle on it. Taking action requires consistent national laws — so that guns from states with poor gun control don’t flood across porous borders, as happens in California and Illinois. And that requires contacting federal lawmakers.

Some things to ask for:

  • Bans on firearms ownership for people with a history of intimate partner violence, as is already the case in some states.
  • Elimination of the “gun show loophole.”
  • Requirements for universal comprehensive background checks.
  • Informed bans on certain types of weapons, rooted in policy developed by experts in firearms — a vague “assault weapons ban” can sound good, for example, but may lack meaningful definitions and enforcement clauses, making it window dressing on a very serious issue.
  • Restoration of federal funding to gun violence research.

And if your legislators don’t take action on gun control? The 2018 midterms could be a decisive period for Congress: Go to work for a candidate you do support, who you think has the vision to enact change. Don’t like any of your options? Consider encouraging a leader in your own community, or stepping up to run yourself.

Your fellow Care2 activists are uniting to call for common sense gun laws now. Join them by signing this petition.

Photo credit: Hammer Shath

202 comments

Mike R
Mike R15 days ago

That was horrible.

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Mike R
Mike R15 days ago

That was horrible.

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Mike R
Mike R15 days ago

That was horrible.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini25 days ago

David P
.....And just out of curiosity.... You repeat that 'good' and 'moral' people must be armed against intruders, but what if someone breaks into the house of a wife beater, child molester, drug dealer, fraudster, bully, crime boss etc. does he have the right to defend himself?

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini26 days ago

Dan B
Yes to all you say but I continue to be of the opinion that if there are guns around people will get killed. It's wishful thinking that all armed householders will be good and steady marksmen in a moment of panic. Anyway, the average intruder runs away the moment he hears anyone moving in the house, not waiting to see if he's armed or not. At least, that's how it happens round here.
Hope you are right about Good prevailing. We all need to do our best!

David P
Just to clarify my meaning further: unlike Jesus, St Paul was not speaking to all people for all time. He was addressing a small group of inhabitants of one specific place at one specific time in history, in the context of his conviction that the Second Coming was imminent. So I believe it is misguided to take all he says about civil behaviour as Gospel for all future people in all future centuries. Does that make sense to you?

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld26 days ago

Annabel,
I agree that only God has the right to take a life. Those defending themselves should not be intent on killing the perpetrator. Oftentimes, the presence of someone with a weapon is enough to scare them away. Anyone brandishing a gun, had better take lessons on how to use it properly.

I firmly believe that good will triumph over evil, in the long run.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini26 days ago

Dan B
I take all your points, and they are persuasive, but I say to both you and David that if you believe that God gives a life then surely only God has the right to take it.

David P
In Romans 13 . 4 Saint Paul was telling it like it was, in the culture of his time, not actively recommending capital punishment*. Like on many other of Paul's strictures (look at his views on women) we in later times have evolved our thinking (illuminated by the Holy Spirit), knowing that he was a man living in a precise culture in a precise period of history. We read and appreciate him for his spiritual, not his societal, insights and teachings.

*And bear in mind that the use of the 'sword' does not inevitably mean the death penalty.

The Cheshire episode was certainly appalling but you have to admit it is rare. You say 'If good people didn't defend themselves, then good people would soon no longer exist on planet Earth.' This is ridiculous David. As I keep saying, look at Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. So no, I am not an idealist, I am a normal person living in a culture in which guns do not play a part.

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David P
David Parker26 days ago

And of course, before objections, capital punishment should be reserved for heinous crimes like the evil Cheshire, CT rapes and murders, not shoplifting or other misdemeanors. Reason is the tool that must always be applied.

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David P
David Parker26 days ago

Regarding capital punishment, Saint Paul declared that it is permissible, and even responsible, for the government to execute evildoers. Read Romans 13, specifically verse 4: "It [the government] is God's servant to help you. If you do wrong, you should be afraid, because the government doesn't carry a sword without a purpose. It is God's servant, an avenger, that must punish anyone doing wrong."
Here again a sword is the instrument used, and swords are used to kill, whether the permitted use by moral people in self defense or defense of innocent others, or in punishment on evildoers by the government. So St. Paul instructed the responsible use of capital punishment by the government. There is no alternative meaning here.

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David Parker
David Parker26 days ago

Annabel: Self defense is not a wrong. You still don't accept the acceptance and permission of self defense by all moral thought and religions. As I stated earlier, the Dalai Lama accepts self defense, as does Jesus. "If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun." -- Dalai Lama

The police cannot and will not protect moral people. As in the Connecticut example, the police only appear or act after the violence and murders have taken place and the depraved predators have fled. Good people have to be able to protect themselves and their loved ones from the evil that pervades human society.

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