The shooting at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement was stopped by the heroic actions of Jack Wilson and Richard White, the two volunteer members of the church’s security team that confronted the gunman.
As the madman pulled out a shotgun, Wilson and White instantly drew their handguns.
The gunman shot and killed White, who was nearest, and then turned to shoot another congregant and church deacon, Tony Wallace. Both men died from their injuries.
Within seconds of the firing, Wilson’s trained reflexes kicked in as he fired a single shot at the gunman’s head, putting an end to the chaos.
“I’m thankful to GOD that I have been blessed with the ability and desire to serve him in the role of head of security at the church,” Wilson wrote in a Facebook post. “I am very sad in the loss of two dear friends and brothers in CHRIST, but evil does exist in this world and I and other members are not going to allow evil to succeed.”
Wilson has had extensive firearm training, having served as a reserve deputy sheriff for six years, the owner of a firearms training business, and a current TCOLE and LTC instructor.
Since at least the beginning of December, Wilson has been running as a Republican candidate for the third precinct in the Hood County Commissioner’s Court.
There are three other Republican candidates for the position — realtor Jacque Gordon, Texas state Rep. Mike Lang, and retired engineer Terry Stamper — as well as one Democratic candidate, Larry Anderson.
In addition to the heroic actions of Wilson and his church’s security team, a few state laws may have contributed to their ability to stop the gunman from killing more church-goers.
In 2017, State Rep. Matt Rinaldi (R-Irving) introduced an amendment to an occupational licensing bill that created a security licensing exemption for churches that wanted to have volunteer security teams.
Under previous state law, churches and other places of worship were required to comply with extensive licensing regulations or jump through some costly hoops in order to have any sort of coordinated security team — armed or unarmed.
After the bill passed and was signed into law, volunteer security members for churches, synagogues, or other places of worship could serve freely without having to worry about committing a misdemeanor or felony.
Volunteer members are only restricted from wearing any sort of uniform or badge identifying them as security.
In late 2017, after the bill with Rinaldi’s amendment passed, there was a shooting at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.
At that incident, another hero, Stephen Willeford, used his AR-15 to stop the gunman.
Following that massacre, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sent a letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton asking for his opinion regarding the carrying of weapons in churches.
Specifically, he asked if state law allowed for handguns to be carried in churches and if passing Rinaldi’s amendment meant that the private security fee for churches was waived.
In Paxton’s response, he stated that, “Unless a church provides effective oral or written notice prohibiting the carrying of handguns on its property, a license holder may carry a handgun on church property as the law otherwise allows.”
To the second question, Paxton affirmed that the regulations did not apply to churches with volunteer security services.
Despite Paxton’s response, some were concerned that the language of the law was still confusing and could potentially be interpreted to prohibit the carrying of weapons “on the premises of a church, synagogue, or other established place of worship.”
In an attempt to clarify the language, Texas State Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) introduced a bill that essentially codified Paxton’s opinion by striking the potentially confusing language from the law.
While it was ultimately the quick actions of Wilson and the church’s security team that stopped the shooting in White Settlement from getting much worse, the two bills passed by the state legislature appear to have set them up for success.
Although the bill that passed this year likely had little to no influence on the circumstances, as carrying in churches was already viewed as legal by the current Texas Attorney General, it did guarantee that the actions of the security team were allowed under state law.
And without the 2017 bill, the volunteer security team would either be breaking the law or have needed to go through an arbitrary licensing process to operate.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.