The shooting during the communion service at West Freeway Church of Christ in Tarrant County, Texas on the Sunday before New Year’s Day emphatically illustrates one salient cultural truth: it’s long past time for every church in America to arm itself in its own defense.
While details are still emerging, a man opened fire with a shotgun and took down a communion server and a member of the church security team before he was shot to death by an armed servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. There’s some muscular Christianity for you, right there, Texas-style.
There were 242 people in the sanctuary at the time of the shooting. Local law enforcement responded inside of two minutes. But by that time the incident was over. While details have not been released about the amount of ammo the shooter was carrying, many more almost certainly would have died had the church not had its own security force.
A member of the church security team, Richard White, and a deacon serving communion, Tony Wallace, were shot and killed by this armed intruder. White was drawing his gun when he was hit with the first shotgun blast. Wallace demonstrated the greater love that Jesus spoke of when he laid down his life for his friends. Another member of the security team, Jack Wilson, took down the shooter with one shot. The entirety of the incident took six seconds. As the saying goes, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.
The shooter, Keith Kinnunen, was a transient who had a police record and was oddly dressed in a fake beard and wig. He had already drawn the attention of the security team who was observing him closely.
Kinnunen was seated behind Isabel Arreola, her husband, and their 7-year-old daughter. The sense of evil that emanated from the shooter was palpable. Arreola said she could not concentrate with the man sitting right behind her, and that she and her husband decided they would move to the other side of the church after communion.
“I should have listened to my gut,” Arreola said. “While he was there, I couldn’t sing. I couldn’t pray. There was just something not right about him.”
Texas passed a law allowing licensed gun owners to bring their weapons into church in the wake of a 2017 church shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs that left 26 people dead and another 20 wounded. In that case, the shooter was not stopped by a parishioner, none of whom were armed, but by a man across the street from the church who heard the shooting, grabbed his AR-15, and neutralized the bad guy. (Don’t let anybody lie to you and tell you that nobody needs an AR-15 for self-defense.)
This tragedy should immediately end the argument over the permissibility of concealed carry in houses of worship. It’s no longer permissible, it’s now mandatory.
It’s important to note that the right of self-defense is rooted in the teaching of Jesus himself. He once told his disciples that he would be “numbered with the transgressors,” and that as a result their own lives could be endangered because of their association with him. He, therefore, commanded them, “Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36). You can’t get more legitimacy than that. A legal principle rooted in the teaching of Christ is pretty tough to beat.
The legal truth of the matter is that, from a strictly constitutional standpoint, a parishioner does not need permission from a state legislature to carry in church because the Founders already gave it to him in the Second Amendment. It’s the only carry permit a man should need. The Second Amendment says that the right to “keep” - that means to own - and to “bear arms” (that means to carry them around) is a right that is so basic it does not belong to the states or even their militias but to the people themselves. It is a right “of the people,” a right so basic that no arm of government - city, county, state, or federal - has the moral authority to take it away.
Since 1950, 98% of all mass shootings have taken place in gun-free zones like schools, theaters, and yes, churches.
It will surprise many Americans to learn that there was a time when you would have been breaking the law by NOT packing heat to church.
A 1631 Virginia law read, “All men that are fitting to bear arms shall bring their pieces to church.” (In fact, a 1623 Virginia law prohibited you from traveling anywhere without being armed.) In 1639, the Newport Colony required that “none shall come to any public meeting without his weapon.” And in 1770, a Georgia law provided that, “for the better security of the inhabitants,” every resident was required “to carry firearms to places of public worship.”
The reasons for these laws are easy to understand. Certainly, not all Native American tribes were warlike, but enough were for the Founders to include in the Declaration of Independence a statement about “the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”
While no one, of course, is saying that those descriptions apply today, they certainly did then. One thing the hostile Indian nations quickly learned was that European settlers were a God-fearing lot, who attended church en masse on Sunday mornings. It wasn’t long before they realized that such settlers were sitting ducks, all together in one place at one time and utterly defenseless. The best time to strike the colonists was anytime between 11 am and noon on Sunday. Thus, for simple self-protection against unprovoked Indian attacks, early Americans were obligated to pack heat to church.
We’ve had enough sanctuary shootings in the past 15 years, enough pastors and parishioners shot dead in their own places of worship, to clearly, publicly, and legally declare that all Americans have a constitutionally guaranteed right to self-defense, even if they’re sitting in church.
Jesus taught us that Satan “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” There’s no better place for the Prince of Darkness to do his hellish work than in a place of worship. The only thing that’ll stop a bad guy with a gun is a Christian guy with a gun. It’s time to armor up, church.
The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org