Church’s heroic armed neighbor helps demonstrate why mass murders do not call for mass disarmament
Sunday church services at the First Baptist Church on Nov. 5 in Sutherland Springs, Texas, were the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in the state’s history. At least 26 parishioners were killed, including the daughter of the pastor. Another 20 or more were injured.
“Like in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shootings, we need to love each other more and hate less,” said Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark, who expressed his sympathy for the victims of the tragedy and their families.
The alleged shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, had received a bad conduct discharge from the U.S. Air Force after being court-martialed and serving 12 months confinement for assaulting his wife and child. His wife and mother-in-law occasionally attended the Sutherland Springs church but were not among the approximately 50 people in the pews that day. Kelley had allegedly sent threatening text messages to his mother-in-law.
After his attack inside the church, Kelley attempted to escape by car but was pursued by a neighboring gunowner, Stephen Willeford, and another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff, who pulled his truck up to an intersection near the church as the alleged shooter drove away. Langendorff called 911 as he chased the Kelley at speeds of up to 95 miles per hour, before the alleged shooter’s car crashed into a ditch. Kelley died at the scene of the accident, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot according to Wilson County Sheriff Joe D. Tarkitt Jr.
In the wake of tragic shootings such as this one, there are always calls to further regulate or ban firearms. Before those voices reach a crescendo, however, the following facts should be emphasized:
- Texas officials had denied Kelley a license to buy a gun, and he only obtained one later by lying about his disqualifying criminal history.
- The recent mass killing by truck in New York City and the widespread devastation on 9/11 demonstrate that guns are not necessary for a determined assassin to accomplish his evil goal.
- A clear majority of empirical studies show that reducing the availability of firearms in a community is inversely correlated to gun deaths. Jurisdictions in the United States with the strictest gun control laws have higher murder rates than jurisdictions with minimal gun control.
- “Driving a car into a school bus, or flying a plane into a skyscraper, using poison, fire, or homemade bombs are all possibilities for somebody determined to murder others,” pointed out Libertarian National Committee Vice Chair Arvin Vohra in a press release after the recent Las Vegas shooting. “If somebody simply doesn’t care about the consequences, there are many ways to commit mass murder. … Guns, however, are effective defensive weapons. Simply brandishing a gun can often scare off a potential assailant, an effect that does not exist when brandishing a vial of poison or a 747.”
The Libertarian Party platform is clear about the right to self-defense, and has been consistent on this issue since the party was founded nearly 46 years ago.
“The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights—life, liberty, and justly acquired property—against aggression,” the 2016 Libertarian Party platform states. “This right inheres in the individual, who may agree to be aided by any other individual or group. We affirm the individual right recognized by the Second Amendment to keep and bear arms, and oppose the prosecution of individuals for exercising their rights of self-defense. Private property owners should be free to establish their own conditions regarding the presence of personal defense weapons on their own property. We oppose all laws at any level of government restricting, registering, or monitoring the ownership, manufacture, or transfer of firearms or ammunition.”