The shooting was interrupted by a man who lived next to the church rather than an armed member of the congregation.
Texas has long allowed concealed carry and an open carry law went into effect in 2016. Texas law requires a Texas License To Carry a Handgun (LTC) to carry a weapon in public. The LTC requires a background check and firearms training.
Even with an LTC, the right to carry a gun is not unrestricted. The law bars weapons in public buildings such as schools, polling places and correctional facilities. Guns are also banned from bars and sporting events, among other restrictions.
Private property owners are also allowed to decide whether to allow guns on their property. Property owners can post “30.06” and “30.07” signs that reference sections of Texas state law. Section 30.06 prohibits concealed carry and section 30.07 prohibits open carry when the signs are posted. Many churches and businesses post the 30.06 and 30.07 signs.
It is likely, but not certain that Sutherland Springs First Baptist. If the signs were in place, LTC holders would have left their weapons at home or in their cars. In either case, they would have been inaccessible when Devin Kelley cam through the front door.
Sutherland Springs was not the first mass shooting to take place in a church. One of the most infamous such attacks was Dylan Roof’s killing spree at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C in 2015.
In the wake of the Sutherland Springs murders, Texas churches may reconsider the 30.06 and 30.07 postings, but for organizations whose mission is to welcome outsiders there is a delicate balance between protecting congregants and scaring away religious seekers. For many churches, the promise of spiritual protection in verses such as Psalm 44:6 is more comforting than an LTC.