Sutherland Springs, Texas: The gun control debate has taken on a new life after Devin Patrick Kelley wearing a ballistic vest and carrying a Ruger assault rifle gunned down 26 people and injured at least 20 more in an attack on Sutherland Springs First Baptist Church, before he was found dead in his car, in what Texas Governor Greg Abbot described as “the largest mass shooting” in Texas’s history. Pastor Frank Pomeroy was not present for the 11:30 service.
The suspect dropped his assault weapon, and fled in his vehicle, said Freeman Martin, regional director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. Soon afterward, the suspect crashed his vehicle near the border of neighbouring Guadalupe County and was found dead inside with a cache of weapons.
The victims ranged in age from 5 to 72 years old, law enforcement officials told a news conference. Among the dead was the 14-year-old daughter of Pastor Frank Pomeroy, the family told several television stations.
Kelley is said to be 26 years old and a resident of New Braunfels, a city near San Antonio, located some 30 miles from the site of the attack. As it appears from his Facebook account, since taken down, he was a fan of guns, with his cover photo showing an assault rifle. The screenshots of his FB page also feature an Antifascist Action banner, sparking speculation online about his ties to the left-wing scene.
A LinkedIn page purportedly belonging to Kelly states that after he graduated from high school in 2009, he joined the US Air Force. Kelley served from 2010 to 2014, when he was dishonorably discharged and was court-martialed in May 2014 over an unspecified offense.
After his stint with the US military, Kelly reportedly enrolled in a summer Bible school. It is unknown if he was religious or not, as a screenshot of his Facebook groups list shows he was a member of at least four groups on atheism.
Kelley was reportedly married to Danielle Lee Shields.
Kelley was wielding an assault rifle when he went on a shooting rampage in the church, with Freeman Martin, the DPS Regional Director, saying that police discovered “multiple weapons” in his car. However, the Gun Control Act of 1968 explicitly prohibits licensed sellers from selling firearms or ammunition to persons who have “been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions.”
The US Air Force confirmed that Devin Kelley served in the 49th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said. However, she did not identify the cause of his discharge in 2014.
Media reports later revealed Kelley, who was discharged from the Air Force in 2014, was court-martialed in 2012 for assaulting his wife and child
President Trump tweeted:
“May God be w/ the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI & law enforcement are on the scene. I am monitoring the situation from Japan.”
Addressing business leaders on day two of his Asian trip Trump said:
“This act of evil occurred as the victims and their families were in their place of worship. Our hearts are broken,” Trump said on a visit to Japan. We pull together, we join arms. Through the tears and the sadness we stand strong,” added the president,
Texas governor Greg Abbott : “Our prayers are with all who were harmed by this evil act. Our thanks to law enforcement for their response. More details from DPS soon.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said Sunday that Texans should take advantage of the state’s concealed carry laws to prevent future mass shootings.
Paxton said that the news of the mass shooting at a church in Texas “breaks my heart” after reports that children were killed in the attack.
“As far as what we can do in the future, I mean, the only thing I know — because you can’t necessarily keep guns out of the hands of people who are going to violate the law. If somebody’s willing to kill someone they’re also going to be willing to violate a gun law,” Paxton said. All I can say is that in Texas at least we have the opportunity to have concealed carry. And so if it’s a place where somebody has the ability to carry, there’s always the opportunity that gunman will be taken out before he has the opportunity to kill very many people.”
Texas residents can apply for a license to carry a gun, which includes the right to conceal carry a weapon.
Paxton’s comments came in the hours after a mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
On the other side of the gun control debate, Democrats are renewing their calls for gun reform after reports of the mass shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Sunday.
Multiple people are dead after gunfire erupted at the church, which is not far outside San Antonio, according to reports.
Sens. Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.) were among the Democrats who urged Congress to act in response to the latest deadly shooting.
“I’m thinking of and praying for all those impacted by the shooting in Texas. In addition to offering my prayers and thoughts I also believe Congress must take action on gun violence,” Casey wrote in two separate tweets.
“The shooter turned his gun on people — kids — in a place of worship. America is in the grips of a gun violence situation. Congress must act,” Durbin tweeted.
“Enough is enough,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said in a series of tweets. “Now is the time for commonsense gun violence prevention steps. Congressional complicity must end.”
Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) also joined their colleagues in condemning the lack of action.
“When will this end? When will we decide that we can’t accept massacres in our places of worship, schools, or at concerts? When will we actually do something about it?” Feinstein wrote in a statement.
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, called on his Congressional colleagues to show “courage” and take a stand against gun violence.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), meanwhile, released a lengthy statement in which he called on his colleagues in Congress to hold themselves accountable.
“Ask yourself – how can you claim that you respect human life while choosing fealty to weapons-makers over support for measures favored by the vast majority of your constituents,” Murphy wrote.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) called for gun control after the mass shooting:
“Senseless gun violence has torn apart another community — this time in a house of worship. When do we say enough is enough?” Harris tweeted
Sutherland Springs is in a rural area – not very far from San Antonio – where communities are small and tight-knit. The area is known for its annual peanut festival in Floresville, which was most recently held last month.
Only a few wes back, on Oct. 1, 2017 in Las Vegas the deadliest mass shooting in US history occured when fifty-eight were people killed, over 400 injured at an outdoor concert. The shooter, Stephen Paddock, 64 used 23 firearms, mostly rifles, with two modified for “fully automatic” firing, all obtained legally.