By Russell Withers, General Counsel & Senior Policy Analyst. 1/7/2020
On the morning of Sunday, December 29, a man entered a church in White Settlement, Texas and attempted a mass killing inside the church. Tragically, he was able to kill two parishioners, but his larger plans were thwarted within six seconds when Jack Wilson, a member of the congregation and a volunteer security provider who was legally authorized to carry a firearm inside the church, acted quickly and decisively to take the shooter down. Several other members of the congregation were prepared to act as well, had the shooter not been killed so quickly.
Like so many other shootings, however, the knee-jerk reaction from many was one criticizing Texas for a perceived lack of appropriate gun laws:
Contrary to former Presidential Candidate O'Rourke's assertion, White Settlement is a great example of liberalizing gun laws in a manner that allows good people to protect themselves from bad people.
In 2017 and 2019, the Texas Legislature passed two bills that helped save lives on December 29, 2019. Senate Bill 2065 (85R, Hancock) exempted volunteer security services from state regulations that only allowed churches to formally hire licensed security services. The amendment allowed "volunteer security services" in places of worship, provided that the volunteers wear clothing or a badge that clearly identifies them as such.
The other bill, SB 535 (86R, Campbell), clarifies that individuals who are licensed to carry handguns may carry them inside places of worship without committing an offense.
Between SB 2065 and SB 535, two bills liberalizing gun laws, volunteer security like Jack Wilson were put in position to successfully save lives.
Nevertheless, media outlets pushed their own narrative and made assertions that don't square with the facts:
Those "terrifying" other members of the congregation carrying firearms in church? We actually know quite a bit about them. As licensed handgun carriers, they've completed state mandated classroom and field training taught by instructors like Jack Wilson. They've provided fingerprints and undergone an FBI background check. And statistically, we know that individuals licensed to carry handguns in Texas commit crimes at far lower rates than the general population. These people are a far cry from "terrifying." They're heroes. We should celebrate the gun laws that allowed them to save lives and avert an even greater tragedy.