On Sunday, the kind of news no one wants to see slid across the landscape. There was a shooting at a church in White Settlement outside of Fort Worth, Texas and there were casualties. But as we delved into the details, we will admit feeling first a sense of relief that the loss of life was not larger — two innocent lives were lost along with the assailant — and then a sense of gratitude.
Our gratitude, which was also felt by Gov. Greg Abbott, comes from the knowledge that this mass shooter would have likely incurred a lot more mayhem except for the fact that a good man and a volunteer member of the church’s security team immediately shot back. In response to the era of mass shootings that we are in, Texas specifically enacted a law to allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons in church (and elsewhere, unless specifically prohibited at that location). That law saved lives this weekend in North Texas.
Regardless of whether people like this fact, it remains true that there have been at least two church shootings in Texas in recent years that ended because law-abiding citizens had the means and willingness to fight back. The second occurred two years ago in Sutherland Springs, and unfortunately resulted in the loss of many more lives. But as in this most recent shooting, in that incident the assailant did not survive after good men responded with force.
The truth is that there isn’t one solution that will bring an end to all mass attacks, which is one reason we’ve supported such things as creating a federal center to evaluate local, state and federal laws to find the cracks that violent criminals exploit to obtain firearms. But it is also true that part of the set of solutions will have to involve enabling innocent people to protect themselves and each other up to and including fighting back.
If that’s tough to consider, there is another hard reality cast into sharp relief by this latest shooting. As in many other incidents — whether it’s a knife-wielding attacker on a Jewish community in New York or a synagogue, church or other shooting — the attack in North Texas was an assault on a community, on a group of people freely associating with each other and working toward a common purpose.
These attacks are pernicious and act with particular purpose to destroy communities. They seek to kill more than individual lives. They seek to kill social bonds that bind us together. They seek to divide and isolate, to leave survivors feeling alone or unsafe in any common space. So it is all the more important for us to stand together in defense against hateful, divisive and evil purpose. It is civil society itself that’s under attack.