Lawful Gun Owners Stopped Texas Church Killer, Who Was Unlawfully Armed

It is doubtful more gun control laws would have stopped the shooter, and instead might have disarmed the men who stopped him.

By Rachel Alexander Published on November 6, 2017

If two brave men hadn’t exchanged fire with mass murderer Devin Kelley and chased him as he tried to get away, Kelley might have gone on to kill others. Kelley murdered 26 people and wounded 20 others yesterday in a small Texas church.

Stephen Willeford, a 55-year-old plumber, ran from his home near the church barefoot. He exchanged gunfire with the killer, who jumped into his truck and drove awa . He had hit Kelley in the side between his body armor. He told neighbor Johnnie Langendorff what had happened and they chased Kelley about eleven miles. Kelly’s car crashed and he apparently killed himself.

Conservatives saw this as an argument for wider gun ownership. The left promptly called for gun control. But stricter gun control laws wouldn’t have stopped Kelley. He was already legally barred from owning a gun, thanks to his dishonorable discharge from the Air Force.

The Left Demands Gun Control (Of Course)

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., declared, “As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets.” Several leading liberals said the same thing.

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But gun laws likely already stopped Kelley from owning a gun. He’d received a “bad conduct” discharge from the military after charges he abused his wife and child led him to be court-martialed. He couldn’t legally buy a gun. Yet somehow he got the Ruger AR-556 rifle he used in the attack — two years after his discharge.

More gun control laws might have made the devastation worse.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Kelley applied for a gun permit and was rejected. “He was rejected either because he did not fully answer all the questions that are required to get a Texas gun permit, or he answered those questions wrong, that we still don’t know,” he said Monday. “So how did this happen?” he asked.

More Gun Control, More Mayhem

More gun control laws might have made the devastation worse. They could have prevented the two men from stopping Kelley. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton expressed his concern Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He said, “I don’t want to create impediments for law abiding citizens having guns. The people who slowed this guy down were people who had guns.”

Desperate cries for more gun control aren’t going to work politically. After the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012, there were widespread calls from the usual suspects for more gun control. Barack Obama was in the White House. Democrats controlled the Senate. A bill to reinstate a ban on so-called assault weapons, which had been in force from 1994 to 2004, was soon put to the test in the Senate. It got a mere 40 votes.

It’s sheer folly to think gun control forces will have more luck with a GOP president and Congress.

And even if such a law were passed, it wouldn’t prevent such tragedies. For gun control enthusiasts, this is just an chance for political theater and virtue-signaling.


Rachel Alexander is a Senior Editor of The Stream, and a former gun magazine editor. Follow Rachel on Twitter at Rach_IC.

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  • tasha63

    While these men were truly brave, I don’t consider it a success when 26 people still died. Texas is pretty liberal when it comes to gun laws by comparison to most states. It would seem that if carrying guns really was effective we’d have 26 people still alive. What would be more effective was background checks and not allowing people like the shooter to get ahold of weapons in the first place.

    • May I quote, please?

      But gun laws likely already stopped Kelley from owning a gun…. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Kelley applied for a gun permit and was rejected.

      • Paul

        Tom, you’ve got think in gun grabber terms, what they really mean by more gun laws is full and total confiscation of all privately owned guns in the US. Then in their fantasy he would not have been able to buy a gun because they wouldn’t exist. Then finally we will all get along and the world will be a peaceful place devoid of hate and anger. Group hugs everyone!

        • Tom Gilson

          Right. Their fantasy seems to be of a works where no one has guns and never had. Even apart from constitutional protections, their ideas would be no more likely to work than Prohibition. Those who regret gun ownership should be building their strategy on what’s possible in a world where it’s too late to disarm the ones everyone wishes could be disarmed. It’s just too late.

          That’s not the only argument against gun control, but it’s one you’d think they’d pay more attention to. Because it’s obvious and foolish to deny. (Do they really want to be such obvious fools?) And it doesn’t require them to admit we’re right about anything else.

          • Paul

            There are a lot of fools out there who drink the koolaid. But the string pullers do have a progressive plan and it starts with universal background checks. That way they get a wider national database of gun owners and what they own, the necessary first step towards their goal of confiscation.

            That confiscation can be generational like in California where the govt says you can keep your gun that they banned, but then when you die no one can inherit it so it must be turned in..(no compensation of course).

            Or the list can be used by the special gun confiscation team that roams the state looking for the latest ones deemed unworthy of gun posession and they get confiscated. It’s all respectful of the second amendment of course (wink wink).

            Or the ultimate dream of course is an Aussie style confiscation and converting the right to a highly restricted privilege.

          • Andrew Mason

            You really really don’t want to go the Aussie route!!!

            There was a case a while back in Australia’s second largest city (I think) which was pretty much ignored by the MSM despite meriting headlines. Three guys with iron bars tried to carjack a woman. Most times in Australia the woman could be thankful that she only lost the car. In this case however she pulled out a gun and the would be carjackers fled. Most people are not armed policewomen however and so defenceless.

          • Paul

            To be clear, I have no desire to go the Aussie route.

          • tasha63

            Most Americans are in favor of universal background checks. 90% in fact.

          • GPS Daddy

            Yes, the cat is out of the bag and has been out of the bag for some time. Gun control talk is cheap and easy. What is not easy is dealing with the root issues that leads someone to pull the trigger.
            I never see the politicians or the media talk about that. Why are sooo many choosing to pull the trigger? What has changed in our society that is causing this?

          • tasha63

            This is one reason why we don’t make progress on this. Gun owners don’t want to bend one bit because they cling to the idea we want to take away all guns. NOT true.

        • tasha63

          No, no, no, no. This is a myth that persists even though almost everyone I know has not accepted that as realistic.

    • GPS Daddy

      >>It would seem that if carrying guns really was effective we’d have 26 people still alive

      How many were saved because there were armed citizens? Do you know? If not how then can you conclude that taking the guns from Stephen Willeford would have saved the 26?

      • tasha63

        Of course not. I don’t know and can’t know.

        But, I do know that 26 people are dead because one man had an assault rifle. That is indisputable.

      • tasha63

        Let me ask you this then.

        Texas has pretty liberal gun laws compared to some other parts of the country. Yet, this happened there too. Texas is not immune just because there are more guns there, more open and concealed carry. It didn’t stop this man. So, to what degree do you think we’d have to go in order to stop this man?

        If the Air Force can’t get it right and report someone that should not have had a gun, despite his very long history of troubles, then who can we count on to ‘get it right’? Something is broken here.

    • GPS Daddy

      California is one of the strictest on gun laws. Yet they had their slaughter last year. It seems to me that strict gun laws are not being successful.

      • tasha63

        Mass shootings are a serious problem in the United States and MUCH less so in the rest of the developed world. Not to mention plain old garden variety shootings. We outpace every place else.

        Why?? There is something different about us, about this country and our relationship with guns.

  • “flows endlessly”? Wow.

    Joe Carter computed that the average churchgoer’s chance of being shot on a Sunday morning was less than 1 in 6 million. That’s absolutely not to dismiss the tragedy of it happening when it does. He was clear on that, and I want to be clear, too. Still, that’s not what any sane person should call endlessly flowing.

    What flows endlessly is overblown rhetoric.

    • Andrew Mason

      So the odds of being shot in church are about two-thirds the risk of being killed in a terrorist attack? I find it curious that the Left denies terrorism is a real risk, but expresses concern about the risk of being shot in church. Politics seems to be the driving force.

  • Charles Burge

    The NRO article that Rachel linked has an interesting question near the end. “What motivates the passionate gun-controllers?” Whatever the answer is, it doesn’t seem to be empiricism.

  • GPS Daddy

    Fox News is reporting that the Air force failed to report his domestic violence to the FBI and that is why he was able to buy an AR556. So there is ambiguity on did he legally buy an AR556?

    That aside I’d like the tasha63’s of the world to answer this question: Lets say we give you ALL the gun control you want. Define gun control in what every way you wish even if gun control mean confiscation. How will you keep the guns out of the hands of people involved in these things?

    1. Drug trafficking, especially across our open boarders.
    2. Human trafficking
    3. Gangs
    4. Organized crime like the mafia
    5. etc… I’m sure we can expand this list.

    Now the next question. How are you going to collect all the guns that you make illegal in the ‘gun control’ you implement? Will you do house-to-house searched nation wide? Will you push out of business the gun makers and legal gun sellers?

    If you push the legal gun makers out of business then how will you supply government agencies/police agencies/military with guns? Will you make a gun manufacturer into a government business or will you buy the guns these agencies need on the international market? Are you prepared for the rise in the cost of guns for the government?

    How do will you deal with the reason the 2nd amendment was created in the first place: The citizenry is armed to counter the rise of a totalitarian government. How will you protect the people from tyranny?

    • GPS Daddy

      Well it appears that tasha63 (a.k.a anne55?) will not be responding to my questions for the tasha63 account has been deleted.

  • Patmos

    Reading more about the guy who did this, if it wouldn’t have been a gun it likely would have been something else. For all those disgraceful wretches in Congress who waited like 15 minutes before tweeting about gun control, it’s as though the truck attack in NYC never happened. Such shamelessness and coldness is not all that far from the incident itself. Are they planning on spitting on the victim’s graves too?

  • Grabbing my popcorn to see how the left is going to twist THIS one to their ends…

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