Another tragic mass shooting, this time at a small Texas church, sparks fresh recriminations over the availability of guns in America. In this instance, however, the left is unable to ignore one significant fact. The shooter’s rampage was interrupted and brought to an end by the type of person the anti-gun lobby pretends does not exist; a good guy with a gun.
55-year-old Stephen Willeford, who lived close to the church in Sutherland Springs, was alerted to the shooting by his daughter. In an interview with 40/29 News Monday, Willeford described how he heard the sound of gunfire as he loaded a magazine with “a handful of ammunition.” The former National Rifle Association certified instructor then grabbed his rifle and went to the church, where he encountered the shooter. During a brief exchange of gunfire, Williford hit the killer twice before the latter drove away from the scene in an SUV.
Life or Death Decision
The gunman had already killed 26 people and wounded some twenty others when Willeford arrived. What should not be assumed, however, is that the carnage would have been over once the shooter sped away from the church. Where might he have gone next? How many more people might he have been able to kill? Certainly, the man who confronted him – and who now insists that he is no “hero” – may well have prevented more slaughter; not just at the scene but at whatever destination the killer chose when he left the church.
Perhaps without conscious thought, Williford made the snap decision to pursue the shooter. What reason would he have had for making such a decision – quite possibly a life or death decision for him – rather than go back to the church and doing what he could to attend the wounded?
Pursuing and apprehending the shooter was something law enforcement officers were best trained and equipped to do. Although Williford himself may not have understood this in the heat of the moment, he, likely, was not thinking about that when he jumped into a complete stranger’s truck and told him to give chase. Among those who own or carry firearms, whether professionally or merely for self-defense, a protective instinct is common. Such people are akin to shepherds, guarding the defenseless against the wolves. This is why Williford gave chase; to prevent further killing. He may not have even realized this at the time, but it was the motive behind his pursuit – as sure as anything.
Johnnie Langendorff just happened to be passing the church as the gunman emerged. It was into his truck Williford jumped. “That guy just shot up the Baptist church,” Williford told him, “We need to stop him.” Langendorff pursued the gunman at high speed for several miles until the latter drove into a ditch. Williford kept his rifle trained on the crashed vehicle until police arrived at the scene, but the killer had taken his own life with a single gunshot to the head.
Despite the gunman’s suicide, however, it was Williford’s actions and Langendorff’s willingness to give chase that ended what could possibly have been an even greater tragedy.
Many times each year in this country, armed citizens confront criminals. Sometimes, they lose their lives as a result. Sometimes, they prevent murders or other crimes. The leftwing media never tell their stories because doing so would prove that privately owned guns are sometimes legitimately employed to stop the bad guys. That Stephen Williford did not get to that Texas church in time to save more lives is a tragic twist of fate. Nevertheless, an awful and heartbreaking day in Sutherland Springs could have been far worse, if not for a good guy with a gun.
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