Today, what once used to be a church now stands as a memorial—a silent tribute to the 26 people killed on Sunday, November 5 in Sutherland Springs, Texas. This small community located just outside the city of San Antonio is home to the First Baptist Church—the site of the worst mass shooting Texas has ever experienced.
The man responsible was 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley. A former member of the United States Air Force, Kelley had a history of domestic abuse and ultimately received a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force. After entering First Baptist Church on the morning of November 5, Kelley shot and killed 26 (including an unborn child) and wounded 20 others. A local resident then shot Kelley twice before Kelley fled the church in his SUV and was found dead after a short chase and subsequent car crash.
This attack came a mere 35 days after the shooting in Las Vegas on October 1. With the slaying of 58 concert goers and the injuring of more than 500 others, the Las Vegas massacre became America’s deadliest mass shooting of modern times. After the severity of this attack and the degree of attention it received, many American citizens and lawmakers alike were hopeful about the prospect of introducing and passing new gun control legislation.
This time around, however, a notable change was in store. The focal point of this new series of proposed legislation was a device called a bump stock, which can transform a semi-automatic weapon into what is essentially a fully-automatic weapon. This device was also what Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, used to make his semi-automatic rifle fire like an automatic rifle, allowing him to kill many more people in a shorter period of time.
To the dismay of many, efforts surrounding gun control regulation on the part of many congressional Democrats and Republicans alike fell short after the Las Vegas shooting. Both the Senate and House Judiciary Committees have shown no indication that they would consider bills to ban bump stocks, including one bill which received notable bipartisan support in the House.
In the wake of the massacre in Texas, little is expected to change on this front. Major pushback against efforts to introduce new gun regulation has come from the leaders of the Republican Party. President Donald Trump, who refused to cite a lack of gun control as a main issue surrounding the Texas shooting, stated, “This isn’t a guns situation…This is a mental health problem at the highest level.” Further, after the Texas shooting, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan indicated his unwillingness to adopt new gun control legislation, and instead suggested that America enforce already-existing gun laws.
Despite this, several members of Congress have introduced gun control bills, including Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas. Additionally, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut spoke out in the aftermath of the Texas shooting, remarking, “As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets. Ask yourself — how can you claim that you respect human life while choosing fealty to weapons-makers over support for measures favored by the vast majority of your constituents?”
A Politico/Morning Consult poll released in October substantiates Senator Murphy’s claims, finding that 88 percent of respondents support universal background checks, and 79 percent support a ban on bump stocks. However, despite all of this, it is up to the Senate and House Judiciary Committees to first consider such legislation in order for it to advance. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold an upcoming hearing which will include an examination of federal regulations for bump stocks, but if the past is any indication of what the committee will decide, the immediate future of gun regulation does not look promising.
Though it took place halfway across the country, the tragedy in Sutherland Springs hits home for many members of the Holy Cross staff and student body. When asked about her thoughts on gun regulation in America, first-year student Sydney Starzyk of Texas commented, “The shooting is a reminder that the restrictions in place currently are not enough. How many more mass shootings need to take place for us to do something about this issue? Many Texans support loose restrictions on gun control and possession, but after an event happening so close to home I would be disappointed if many are not open to reconsider. The fact that a man with a record of violence was allowed to purchase guns and ammunition is very upsetting.”