If any place should be safe, it should be a church

The Progress-Index - - OPINION - San An­to­nio Ex­press-News

The deadly shoot­ing at a church in Suther­land Springs on Novem­ber 5th leaves us with many unan­swered ques­tions, but a few things are re­mark­ably clear.

Among them: we can’t help but be sad­dened that we find our­selves writ­ing this same edi­to­rial with such dis­tress­ing reg­u­lar­ity; as a state and a na­tion, we mourn the deaths of in­no­cents from yet an­other mass shoot­ing, the death toll at 26 this time (as of the evening); and, per­haps most clear, none of us should al­low the mind­numb­ing rep­e­ti­tion of such events to in­ure us to this type of sav­agery.

We fear this is hap­pen­ing. This can­not be our nor­mal.

Law en­force­ment sources, who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is con­tin­u­ing, iden­ti­fied the gun­man as Devin P. Kel­ley, 26. Among the un­knowns Sun­day evening was a mo­tive. And per­haps, as with the Las Ve­gas slaugh­ter of Oct. 1, in which Stephen Pad­dock killed 58 and wounded nearly 500, we won’t ever know. But what we know is bad enough. It hap­pened. Again. But this time closer to home. Suther­land Springs, pop­u­la­tion 362 ac­cord­ing to the 2000 Cen­sus, is in Wil­son County and is 21 miles east of San An­to­nio. The ages of the dead: 5 to 72. Par­ents, chil­dren, friends and rel­a­tives lost.

This time, these are Tex­ans. This time, these are our neigh­bors, parish­ioners of the First Bap­tist Church of Suther­land Springs. The iden­ti­fied shooter was found dead from a bul­let wound in his crashed ve­hi­cle in neigh­bor­ing Guadalupe County, un­clear Sun­day evening whether it was self­in­flicted or from a cit­i­zen who fired on the gun­man out­side the church.

No in­for­ma­tion was re­leased on the cit­i­zen who fired on the gun­man, who was wear­ing black and had on a tac­ti­cal vest. It’s likely this cit­i­zen saved lives.

The weapon the mur­derer used for his deadly shoot­ing spree was re­port­edly a Ruger as­sault-style ri­fle. He ap­par­ently dropped it af­ter the cit­i­zen fired on him. Au­thor­i­ties found other guns in his car.

Any loss of in­no­cent life is tragic, but to be killed while in a house of wor­ship is par­tic­u­larly heinous. If any place should be safe, it should be a church, where peo­ple gather in peace, faith and fel­low­ship — a place where among the com­mand­ments ad­hered to is thou shalt not kill.

But here’s what else we know. Not even churches have been spared this car­nage, as at­tests the slaugh­ter at Em­manuel African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17, 2015. It is still fresh in me­mory.

As with any mass shoot­ing, this is a tragedy, but it is com­pounded in this in­stance be­cause, if the death toll re­mains at 26, this will amount to 7 per­cent of the small com­mu­nity’s pop­u­la­tion. Res­i­dents will likely be re­lated to or know some­one killed in that church Sun­day.

Our hearts, prayers and thoughts go out to these, this time our neigh­bors.

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