Sutherland Springs: more guns, not more restrictions

It’s been a week since Devin Patrick Kelley stormed into First Baptist Church Sutherland Springs and shot 26 people to death and wounded 20 more. The funerals are getting ready to start, or have already happened, and FBC Sutherland Springs held a church service today. Pastor Frank Pomeroy has been pretty consistent in his words: God will be lifted up, even though we’re hurting bad. He’s trying to be as supportive as possible for his flock and town, even though he lost his own daughter in the attack.

One thing the people of Sutherland Springs have been pretty consistent on, as well, is their belief more guns are the solution, not gun control laws. Via The Dallas Morning News:

After all, they say, the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, was stopped by a neighbor of the church, Stephen Willeford, who confronted him with a rifle. Without Willeford’s armed response, there’s no telling how many more would’ve died.

“We all understand a gun did not kill my sister,” said Jimmy Stevens, 58, the brother of Peggy Warden, who died in First Baptist. “It was a sick person who did that. The man from across the street shot this man with the exact kind of gun [the gunman] was using.”..

In this community and others like it, people aren’t in the habit of relying on police to protect them, they say. They’ve grown up shooting, and understand the importance of gun safety and self-defense, they add.

This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone who lives in Texas, specifically small town Texas. Sutherland Springs has only 700 residents, and no police force. The Wilson County Sheriff’s Office handles law enforcement in town, and there are agreements with nearby Schertz for some services. But people are mostly left to themselves, relying on individuals to protect themselves from harm, should something happen. One friend of mine mentioned he thought it was crazy Sutherland Springs didn’t have a police force, but it makes sense. When you live in a small town, with nearby cities which actually respect property lines and don’t try to annex for tax dollars, it doesn’t make sense to spend the money to create a police force. Texas has dozens of regulations for police forces, including training programs and benefits, which would cost towns even more cash. It makes much more sense to partner up with a Sheriff’s Office for help, when the biggest issue the town typically faces is probably a public intoxication or dumb kids doing stupid stuff.

It will be interesting to see if Sutherland Springs’ attitude over a police force stays the same, as the days and weeks go by. It takes a special kind of person to stay focused on one’s beliefs, and the lure of state (or federal) cash to create a police department is strong. There’s no reason for them to create a police force, even after Kelley’s attack, because for one, it’s an outlier and two, the town probably can’t support it.

Another friend of mine pointed out he didn’t believe more guns was a solution and was worried about people emotionally making mistakes. I can partially understand his reasoning because the area he grew up in was filled with gangs and high crime. Gunshots meant you took cover, hoped the police would respond in time, and that no one else would be hurt. It was like that in the part of Dallas I grew up in, and for a while it wasn’t surprising to call 911 every night because of gunshots.

But it doesn’t change the notion people should be able to protect themselves from harm. Gun safety is important, however it doesn’t mean relying on the government to do more and more background checks or longer waiting periods or any kind of outright ban. It means being willing to take gun safety courses and learn how to operate a weapon around others. It means knowing you shouldn’t point a gun at someone else unless you plan on pulling the trigger, paying attention to your surroundings, always treating a gun like it’s loaded and keeping your finger off the trigger until your target is in sight.

It’s easy to try to rely on some entity like a police force or government to provide safety. We see that debate every day in America, whether it involves police shootings or violence in general. Sutherland Springs has it right: people should rely on individuals for protection. That could take the form of more guns, more swords, or simply looking out for your neighbors. It doesn’t have to mean more government.