Washington, D.C., December 30, 2019 - Today, Brady joins with the West Freeway Church of Christ community and the citizens of White Settlement, Texas, in mourning the murder of Tony Wallace and Richard White during yesterday’s church service. We are outraged that this preventable act of violence has torn apart two families and wounded the West Freeway Church community.
Brady Vice President of Policy Christian Heyne shared:
“Once again, our hearts are broken hearing about yet another shooting. Yesterday, it was in Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, a space intended to create and celebrate community, fellowship, and peace. It is obscene that another house of worship, filled with individuals and families practicing their faith, was violated. It is horrific that two parishioners, including a deacon of the church, were murdered during their Sunday worship. We join with the White Settlement community, with Texas, with Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and with the entire country in mourning the two parishioners murdered and in gratitude for the quick actions of the church’s security team who prevented an even greater tragedy from occurring - but, we must not become complacent that these events are inevitable or unpreventable.
We can keep guns out of the hands of those who are most at risk of harming themselves or others. We often hear that more guns equals more protection, or that ‘more guns means less crime’ — positions that accept that violence is inescapable. It’s not. Gun violence is preventable. Evidence shows that policies that keep guns out of the hands of individuals most likely to harm themselves or others are effective at reducing gun violence and death when those laws are effectively implemented. The individuals who stopped yesterday’s shooter certainly acted heroically. But, we must ask why we continue to ask private citizens to become heroes, rather than protecting them from violence in the first place.”
Though details on yesterday’s violence continue to emerge, local and federal law enforcement have confirmed that the shooter entered West Freeway Church of Christ during yesterday’s service, seating himself among the parishioners. The shooter then stood, opened fire, and was neutralized by members of the church’s volunteer security force. Texas law permits private citizens to carry firearms in houses of worship for the purposes of conducting security functions.
Two members of the parish were killed, Anton ‘Tony’ Wallace and Richard White.
Matthew J. DeSarno, the FBI special agent in charge of the Dallas field office, stated that the shooter was “relatively transient” but had connections to the area. Similarly, DeSarno confirmed that the shooter had a previous arrest record but was “not on a watch list.”
While calls for greater security at places of worship and other spaces are understandable following an act of violence, they are based on the premise that these attacks are unavoidable. We know they are not. We know that adding guns to a situation does not prevent violence. We know that it does not make places of worship safer. It does not keep guns out of the hands of individuals that are a danger to themselves or others.
Solutions exist to stop people who are not responsible owners, or who pose a danger to themselves or others from obtaining guns. A majority of Texans, including a majority of Texan Democrats, Republicans and Independents, support policies that achieve that goal. Policies such as Extreme Risk Prevention Order (ERPO) regulations, sometimes known as ‘red flag laws,’ and expanded background checks on gun sales keep guns out of the hands of those who should not possess them. They prevent violence. They protect citizens.
But they have not been passed into law.
Following yesterday’s shooting, we must continue to look for these solutions that address gun violence and prevent tragedies, not mitigate them. We’ve seen numerous shootings in Texas in the last year, including the mass shootings in an El Paso Walmart and in Odessa-Midland. By addressing the root causes of gun violence, we can make our country safer and protect our citizens, communities and places of worship. Arming citizens and increasing the number of guns in all of these spaces is not a solution. It does not prevent violence.
“It is clear that our nation’s patchwork of policies on guns are not working. Violence is not predetermined. We must stop acting as if we have no other choice than to live in a country where we are not safe on our street corners, in our shopping malls, in our schools, and, yes, in our houses of worship. When discussing these events, we are now forced to ask ‘which Texas church shooting?’ We must pass meaningful solutions to protect our families, our churches and our children and prevent violence.”
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.