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Unholy Violence: The Disturbing Rise of Church Massacres in Texas

Last week’s shooting at the Lakewood megachurch is not the first time that someone with a legally acquired weapon caused panic at a house of worship in Texas, in fact, the Lone Star State is the state where more people have been killed in mass shootings at churches.

Mass shootings began their rise two decades ago, starting in the 2000s, and have claimed nearly a hundred lives across the country. Nearly half of those lives – 47 percent to be exact – were taken in Texas.

Texas is a particularly deadly place for mass shootings in churches. According to data from The Violence Prevention Project, 41 people have been killed and 38 injured in mass shootings in Texas’ churches to date, far surpassing any other state. Texas is also the state with the most mass shootings in churches, with a total of four since the 1960s.

So far, there has been one mass shooting in a Texas church every decade since the 1980s, with the 1980 Daingerfield church shooting being the first recorded mass shooting in a place of worship in the U.S. since 1966. Then there was the Wyldewood Baptist Church shooting in Fort Worth in 1999, the Sash Assembly of God church shooting in 2005, and then the Sutherland Springs church shooting in 2017. This last shooting is both the deadliest shooting in Texas and the deadliest shooting at a house of worship in the United States.

These shootings have one thing in common: all of the shooters had criminal records or prior violent behavior, and at least three of them were still able to buy their guns.

In 1980, a former high school teacher killed five people and wounded 10 others at the First Baptist Church in Daingerfield. Alvin Lee King III, the perpetrator, was armed with a carbine, a semiautomatic rifle, and two revolvers, the last two purchased legally, according to the Violence Prevention Project.

King was accused of raping his daughter and carried out the shooting because the priest refused to testify at his trial.

In 1999, a man armed with two semi automatic handguns entered the Wedgwood Baptist Church and opened fire on congregants. He killed seven people and wounded seven others. Four of those killed were teenagers.

The Wedgwood Baptist Church shooter purchased his handguns from a licensed dealer. He had mental problems and a criminal record.

In 2005, a gunman killed four people at Sash Assembly of God Church. The shooter killed 4 people before being confronted by police. He had threatened his neighbors with guns for several years.

In 2017, a former U.S. Air Force airman opened fire on worshippers at First Baptist in Sutherland Springs, killing 26 people and wounding 22 others. David Kelley, the shooter, was able to purchase his AR-556 semi-automatic rifle at an Academy Sports + Outdoors store in San Antonio despite a previous court-martial conviction for domestic violence.

Currently, Texas does not require a license to carry a handgun or rifle, but does have a minimum age requirement of 21 years old. Texas law also allows people to carry their weapons in plain sight.

Despite all the people who have died with legally purchased guns, instead of making stricter laws, carrying a gun is now easier than it was when Gov. Greg Abbott first took office. In 2021 lawmakers filed a bill that lets people carry guns without a background check and training.

The Violence Prevention Project only counts as a mass shooting incidents where four or more people were killed, but there have been more shootings at Texas churches, such as the 2019 West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, where a man killed two worshippers.

Mass shootings at churches are an epidemic that has been on the rise in recent decades, and without stricter gun control, this problem will continue to claim the lives of Texans. The recent Lakewood church was proof that people with criminal records or histories of violence can still buy and operate guns.

“Let it be clear that the second amendment stops where the first amendment right to life begins and it’s time to remove from the US Constitution any protection for gun ownership,” wrote the former mother-in-law of the Lakewood Church shooter on a facebook post.
To learn more about gun violence in Texas, visit our Gun Violence Watch website.

Staff
Staff
Written by RA News staff.

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