The deadly shooting that sent congregants running for their lives inside a Texas church Sunday has reignited the polarizing debate over gun control in America, with Republicans praising the state’s gun laws and Democrats urging the governor to call for a special legislative session to address gun violence.
“Good people with guns always triumph over evil ones,” former U.S. Rep. Allen West, a Republican from Florida, tweeted on Sunday.
The gunman, whose motive is still unknown, was fatally shot within seconds of opening fire during a live-streamed worship service at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, a city just outside Fort Worth. The two men he shot, one of whom was a deacon and lifelong member of the church, died at the scene or at the hospital.
Texas officials described the two volunteer security guards who stopped the shooting as heroes and praised newly enacted state laws that specifically allow licensed gun owners to bring weapons into places of worship.
“The citizens who were inside that church undoubtedly saved 242 other parishioners,” Jeff Williams, a regional director with the Texas Department of Public Safety, told reporters at a news conference Sunday evening, noting that the shooting was over within six seconds.
“It’s never going to get faster than that,” he said. “It was miraculous. The true heroes in this were the people who were sitting in those pews today and… saved their fellow citizens.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said an “untold number of lives” were saved Sunday thanks to two laws that passed after a 2017 church shooting left 26 people dead in Sutherland Springs, another Texas community. The Republican official explained that the new laws ensure that a church can allow congregants to carry weapons if its leaders so choose.
But even as the church guards receive bipartisan praise for their actions this week, Democrats and gun control advocates suggest Texas’ laws are not fixing the problem.
“Clearly what we are doing in Texas, what we are doing in this country, when it comes to guns is not working,” former Democratic presidential candidate and Texas native Beto O’Rourke wrote on Twitter.
“Easy access to guns does NOT make us safer,” Fred Guttenberg, who lost his daughter in the Parkland high school shooting last year, tweeted on Sunday. “Easy access to guns only ensures that those who are determined to kill will have the means to kill as many as possible.”
Democrats in the deep-red state urged Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special legislative session to address gun violence in their state, but he so far has declined to do so. Texas’ legislature convenes its regular sessions in January of odd-numbered years, so the next one is set for 2021.
Sunday’s shooting comes just four months after a suspected terrorist killed more than 20 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
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