A gunman’s deadly rampage in a Texas church
The U.S. Air Force admitted this week that it failed to notify federal law enforcement about Devin Patrick Kelley’s 2012 conviction for domestic violence—an error that allowed Kelley to buy the military-style semiautomatic rifle he used to kill 26 people and wound 20 others at a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Kelley was court-martialed and ultimately discharged from the Army after serving 12 months for assaulting his then wife and cracking the skull of his toddler stepson in 2012. That same year, Kelley escaped from a psychiatric hospital after making death threats against his superiors at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where he was stationed.
As reports emerged of Kelley’s troubled past, residents of tiny Sutherland Springs (pop. 600) struggled to come to grips with the horrific attack at the First Baptist Church, which claimed eight members of a single family and the 14-year-old daughter of the pastor. Kelley, 26, stormed into Sunday-morning services, wearing black tactical gear and a skull-face mask, and opened fire, methodically walking between pews to kill anyone who moved or cried out. As Kelley left the church, Stephen Willeford, an NRA instructor who lived nearby, shot at him and pursued him as he fled in an SUV. After a brief car chase, Kelley shot himself to death. President Trump said Kelley had a “mental health problem” and praised Willeford’s heroics, insisting stricter gun laws would not prevent mass shootings. “Instead of having 26 dead, you would have had hundreds more dead,” Trump said. “Not going to help.”
What the columnists said
Trump is right, said Ben Shapiro in NationalReview.com. New gun laws won’t fix anything when we can’t enforce those we already have. Kelley “should not have been able to own or obtain a gun under federal law,” yet he was able to buy four weapons in five years. It was only thanks to a law-abiding gun owner that more people weren’t killed. That’s why we have the Second Amendment, “so that Americans can preserve their own lives when government falls short.”
Willeford was undoubtedly heroic, said German Lopez in Vox.com, but more than 40 people were shot before the “good guy with a gun” arrived to help. Of all mass shootings between 2000 and 2013, only 3 percent were stopped by armed civilians. All the while, for every criminal killed in self-defense by a gun, 34 people are killed in gun homicides, 78 people in suicides, and two in accidental gun deaths. “Guns are enabling much more death of the innocent than they are protecting people from a similar fate.”
It’s domestic violence that’s the common thread in these atrocities, said Karen Attiah in The Washington Post. Fifty-four percent of mass shootings involve a partner or another family member being killed, according to Everytown for Gun Safety. Investigators believe Kelley was motivated by a family dispute; his mother-in-law attended the church in Sutherland Springs but luckily wasn’t there at the time of the massacre. Instead of stigmatizing the mentally ill, “it’s beyond time to treat violence against women as a serious threat to our national security.”