Three people are dead following a shooting at a church service Sunday in White Settlement, Texas. A gunman killed two parishioners in the church just outside Fort Worth before being fatally shot by members of the church's volunteer security team.
The names of the perpetrator and victims have not been released as of this writing, and the motivation for the crime is currently unclear. One FBI agent described the shooter as a transient person from the area who had been arrested multiple times.
One thing we do know: The death toll likely would have been higher had the church's security team not been armed.
"We lost two great men today," said Britt Farmer, senior minister at the West Freeway Church of Christ, where the shooting happened, at a press conference. "It could have been a lot worse. I'm thankful that our government has allowed us the opportunity to protect ourselves."
Texas politicians and law enforcement were also quick to praise the church's security team, which they say prevented a larger massacre of the 242 people attending the Sunday service.
"Two of the parishioners who are volunteers on the security force drew their weapons and took out the killer immediately, saving an untold number of lives," said Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick at a Sunday night press conference.
The Texas legislature passed a bill in May 2019 eliminating a provision of state law that prohibited licensed firearm owners from possessing a handgun in places of worship. Prior to the passage of that law, which went into effect in September, it was unclear under what circumstances a person was legally able to carry a handgun in a church.
According to The New York Times, the West Freeway Church has had a security team for over 10 years, so it's not clear this new law had any bearing on whether the church would have had armed security present.
Still, the details of the shooting seem to vindicate the oft-derided phenomenon of a "good guy with a gun" stopping or preventing mass shootings. Gun rights advocates argued that allowing people to carry firearms in public places can deter unprovoked firearm violence, and also enable people to quickly stop such shooters.
In the White Settlement case, members of the church's security team were able to intervene immediately, thereby stopping additional bloodshed. A 2017 mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where parishioners were unarmed, saw 26 people killed by a mass shooter. Meanwhile, gun control advocates are arguing that the fact that the White Settlement shooting happened at all is evidence that we need tighter restrictions of firearm ownership.
Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D–Texas), who spent much of his failed presidential bid arguing for confiscating people's AR-15s, declared that "what we are doing in Texas, what we are doing in this country, when it comes to guns is not working."
"It's no coincidence that the state has some of the weakest gun laws in the country," tweeted the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence, which advocates bans on what it calls "weapons of war."
So saddened to hear about another church shooting in Texas, this one in White Settlement near Fort Worth. Clearly what we are doing in Texas, what we are doing in this country, when it comes to guns is not working. https://t.co/krwcpL1lih
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) December 29, 2019
BREAKING: 3 people have been shot, 1 killed, at a Texas church.
Where are we safe? This past week, we've seen shootings at restaurants, family gatherings, malls, and now a church.
— Brady (@bradybuzz) December 29, 2019
By arguing that we should ban certain firearms because they can be used to kill a lot of people in a short period of time, gun control advocates are acknowledging that mass shooters will continue to exist. Advocates of armed civilian "good guys" pretty much accept that premise as well. Which side is pushing a more effective solution to reduce mass shooting deaths?
Reason's Jacob Sullum has tirelessly pointed out that plenty of mass shooters are able to kill a lot of people despite using ordinary handguns or shotguns (like the shooter in the White Settlement case) that would not fit even the broadest definition of "weapon of war" or "assault weapon."
Restricting firearms, by contrast, could well deprive people of the means they need to defend themselves during a mass shooting.
The White Settlement case is one example where armed, private citizens saved a lot of lives. In an imagined counterfactual where none of the parishioners were armed and "weapons of war" were banned, the shooter still would have been able to kill a lot of people.