Other Opinion: He should not have had a gun
Lives were saved when a member of the volunteer security team at a Texas church fatally shot a gunman who had opened fire on the congregation during a Sunday morning church service. Thanks and praise for his skilled actions are due Jack Wilson. But what must not be forgotten or forgiven is that two innocent people were shot to death in a house of prayer by a man who - despite a troubled and violent past - had access to a gun because of this country's lax gun laws.
"Keith is a violent, paranoid person with a long line of assault and batteries with and without firearms. He is a religious fanatic, says he's battling a demon . . . He is not nice to anyone." That is how one of his ex-wives described the gunman in 2012 as she sought a protective order against him. Keith Thomas Kinnunen, 43, who killed church deacon Anton Wallace, 64, and church security volunteer Richard White, 67, at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, had an extensive rap sheet in numerous places across the United States. Included in his troubled history was the 2012 determination by an Oklahoma judge that he was mentally incompetent to stand trial on charges he attacked the owner of a doughnut shop; he was committed to a psychiatric facility. In 2016, he was arrested after being spotted acting suspiciously near an oil refinery in New Jersey while armed with a shotgun; he ended up pleading guilty to criminal trespass.
None of that prevented him from getting a firearm. Exactly how is unclear, but Texas has one of the nation's least restrictive gun laws with no requirements for background checks when the seller is not a licensed dealer. That irrational permissiveness needs to be addressed, but gun advocates - cheered on by President Donald Trump - instead seized on the terrible events to promote their agenda that the answer to gun violence is more guns. So much for not politicizing tragedy. And never mind the rates of suicides and homicides in Texas, or that the state has been home to some of the country's deadliest mass shootings.
The hero in Sunday's shooting was not, as gun advocates would want us to believe, an ordinary churchgoer - the proverbial "good guy with a gun" - but rather a firearms instructor and gun range owner who has been a reserve deputy with a local sheriff's department. It's not hard to imagine an even greater tragedy if there had been someone less skilled than Wilson or if the shooter had been armed with a weapon that didn't require it to be reloaded. Indeed, the next madman intent on killing as many people as possible, rather than being deterred by Sunday's events, might conclude that he needs a more lethal weapon. Those who see more armed guards as the only answer are driving down a road of ever-intensifying escalation.
Instead of turning churches and schools into armed camps, we should do a better job of keeping guns away from people who shouldn't have them. Gun control that includes strong background checks makes sense, as a majority of Americans understand.