Hours after a mass shooting that left at least 26 people dead, the Texas attorney general said American churches should be “arming some of the parishioners” or hiring “professional security”.
“It’s going to happen again,” the state attorney general, Republican Ken Paxton, told Fox News in an interview hours after the shooting at Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church in Texas, which claimed victims as young as five and as old as 72.
If more church-goers were armed “there’s always the opportunity that the gunman will be taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very many people,” Paxton said.
As America’s mass shootings grow deadlier and more frequent, and Republicans like Paxton continue to block any new federal gun control laws, churches, schools and workplaces are devising security plans for responding to an armed attacker.
Just two months ago, a new Texas law went into effect to make it easier for churches to use armed members of their congregations to provide security.
American gun right advocates point to the example of Jeanne Assam, who intervened in a mass shooting at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs in December 2007, shooting the perpetrator several times before he shot himself, ending the attack.
Assam, who had professional training as a police officer, was officially providing security for her church that day. Two teenage sisters were killed and several others wounded. The attacker had reportedly been carrying more than a thousand rounds of ammunition.
Related Story: New Life church pastor weighs in
In September 2017, a member of the congregation at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee, was hailed as a hero for physically confronting a gunman who opened fire in church, then reportedly getting a gun from his car and holding him at gunpoint. One woman died and seven others were injured in the attack.
“We’ve had shootings in churches for, you know, for forever. It’s going to happen again, and so we need people in churches, professional security or at least arming some of the parishioner or the congregation so they can respond if something like this – when something like this happens again,” the Texas attorney general said on Sunday.
A Fox anchor questioned how comfortable many people might be with carrying a weapon in church. “The concept of a firearm and a church” are “two potentially diametrically opposed concepts, when you’re there praying to the Lord,” Fox’s Eric Shawn said.
“There’s no doubt,” Paxton said. “I think that’s why so many people don’t carry in a church.”
Under state law, Texans have long be allowed to carry a concealed weapon in houses of worship, as long as the house of worship does not specifically forbid it, according to Laura Cutilletta, the legal director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Related: Texas church shooting: suspect named as at least 26 confirmed dead – latest updates
Some churches responded to the Texas open carry law by more proactively banning gun carrying in church, which the law allows individual houses of worship to do.
“We’ve noticed that Baptist churches vary all across the spectrum in the options they are choosing,” John Litzler, legal consultant with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, told Baptist News Global in early 2016, as the new open carry law went into effect.
Proponents of providing armed security for Sunday services in churches across the country often argue that tightening America’s extremely permissive gun control laws would not help prevent violence. In Texas, for example, one private citizen can legally sell a gun to another without conducting any background check to confirm they are not prohibited from owning guns.
“I wish some law would fix all of this,” Paxton said on Fox News Sunday, calling the shooting a horrifying tragedy, particularly because some of the victims were children. “You can’t necessarily keep guns out of the hands of people who are going to violate the law.”
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