At least one church in Central New York is making it clear that it welcomes firearms inside its walls. Messages on the church’s sign popped up in response to the tragic massacre that killed 26 people, excluding the shooter, and wounded 20 others at a church in the small Texas town of Sutherland Springs.
The Lighthouse Mexico Church of God in Oswego County put up a sign that read, “Locked an [sic] loaded, we are not a gun free zone.” A second message read, “We say it again, we are not a gun free zone.”
And just to be clear, the church’s website also includes a scrolling message that says, “We are NOT a ‘Gun free zone’– we protect our people!”
This open attitude toward carrying guns into church is not new for the church located in Mexico, N.Y. Pastor Ronald Russell told Spectrum News that his church started allowing congregants to openly carry guns after white nationalist Dylann Roof killed nine black congregants at a Charleston, S.C., church in 2015.
“Times are changing,” Russell said. “It’s not the congregation, per se, but the leadership. People say, ‘Well, pastor, you’re talking about killing some,’ and I say, ‘Well, if I don’t protect my people, I’m being complicit.’ A shooting here, that’s not going to happen.”
The Lighthouse Mexico Church of God also offers courses in self-defense and recognizing suspicious behavior.
The shooting in Texas has again put a focus on the debate about gun control and where people should be allowed to carry guns, such as on college campuses and houses of worship.
“There’s an old saying: ‘The best answer for a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,'” Tiffany Teasdale-Causer, owner of Lynnwood Gun and Ammunition in Lynnwood, Wash., said, according to Syracuse.com.
But not everyone agrees, including some who have had loved ones killed in mass shootings. Sandy Phillips, a Texas gun owner whose daughter was killed in the 2012 movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., doesn’t believe in people with guns playing hero, even in light of how the Texas shooting ended.
Two men in Sutherland Springs were hailed as heroes for chasing down the gunman with a gun of their own. One man shot at the killer, who then tried to flee in his vehicle. The man who shot at him got in a car with another man and chased down the killer, who crashed into a ditch. He was discovered to have suffered a fatal, self-inflicted bullet wound.
“They didn’t even succeed in killing him. He killed himself,” Phillips said. “The bottom line is people are killing people with guns and they’re killing them in large numbers because we have easy access to guns.”