By Harold Pease, Ph. D
By now everyone knows about the citizen heroes that brought down the heinous Texas gunman that massacred 26 worshipers and wounded another 20 while they attended church Sunday morning resulting in the largest mass murder in Texas history. What has not been emphasized is that those numbers would have been much higher had the same thing happened in California, New York and several other states as these states view their armed citizens as the enemy. In fact those intervening to stop more mass killing by gunman Devin P. Kelley would have been breaking the law and arrested. The “Texas Massacre” should put an end to the argument that law-abiding citizens should be disarmed.
For those who did not get this side of the story, a review of the facts should be helpful. Devin Kelley went to this out-of-the-way church to kill his mother-in-law, Lola White, 2and others with her, leaving his engine running with the car door open for a quick escape. Dressed in black body armor and armed with a semi-automatic AR-556 rifle, he first ran around the church killing two then paused briefly before entering the chapel spraying the parishioners with bullets shooting another 44. Victims ranged from ages 18 months to 77 years.
Neighbor, Stephen Willeford 55, heard the gunshots and rushed forth with his AR-15 to confront the murderous gunman (ironically similar weapons used for both evil and good). Shots were exchanged between Willeford and Kelley with the latter receiving leg and torso wounds resulting in his ceasing the carnage and dropping his rifle while fleeing to his automobile.
A third man, Johnnie Lagendorff, stopped at the intersection near the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, noticed the exchanged gunfire, and when confronted by Willeford to help, provided the pursuing truck. An 11-mile chase ensued reaching speeds of 95 miles-per-hour before shooter Kelley lost control of his vehicle and ran off the road. During the chase they communicated with dispatchers. The two caught up with Kelley but not before he self-inflicted a shot to the head. He apparently did not die immediately and was held at gunpoint until police arrived seven minutes later.
My point, shooter Kelley had three gunshot wounds, none from police. Their justification for involvement, as expressed by truck driver Langendorff, “It was the right thing to do” and, “Why wouldn’t you want to take him down?” But “the right thing to do” in California or New York would have been illegal and these men arrested on a number of counts. “He just hurt so many people, and he just affected so many people’s lives” wouldn’t pass muster in many states.
Gun confiscators want more restrictions on gun ownership but there were already laws that would have barred Kelley from purchasing his firearms had they been enforced. Kelley had been court martialled for spousal and child abuse, the latter conviction for fracturing the skull of his infant stepson, netting him a year behind bars. The Air Force had failed to record the conviction so federal records did not have this information. The truth is laws only restrict the law abiding and more laws do not increase the tendency of the lawless to be more law obedient.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz had it right when he said, “The reason that the depraved gunman finally gave up and got in a car and fled, and didn’t murder more, is precisely because one individual demonstrated bravery and courage.” When the people do not feel safe there will be concealed weapons despite gun prohibiting signs—even in church. In Texas a church is likely the only place where a mass shooting could occur because elsewhere the moment a gunman pulls his weapon ten others, also with weapons, stand ready to pull theirs.
In Texas, law enforcement share the responsibility of public safety with their citizens and citizens are expected to back up law enforcement when necessary. They recognize that no matter what the crime, unless law enforcement is already on the scene, which is very rare, there exists a few minutes when the criminal is able to have his way no matter what the law says. In states that treat their citizens as first responders in the absence of law enforcement, no criminal can be certain that he has any time to exercise his own will without immediate consequence. The enforcer may be in the vest of the person next to him not just on a policeman five miles away.
In states like California and New York who refuse to share these responsibilities, even criminalizing those who would assist them, criminals have no immediate deterrence and are warned by sirens from a distance when the police are nearing enabling them time to escape. Citizens fear their own government and are far more reluctant to assist law enforcement. Far fewer would carry a weapon or threaten to use it, and virtually no one would shoot the criminal or follow him 11 miles. Thus these men are praised in Texas and arrested in California or New York. The natural consequence is that per capita there is more crime in gun restricted states than in less restricted states and a neighbor more willing to grabs his gun and rush to save others from further slaughter in the church next door.
Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. Newspapers have permission to publish this column. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.