A shooter opened fire in a Houston church. Gunfire has also scarred other Texas places of worship
Austin, Texas — The shooting last weekend at Joel Osteen’s megachurch in Houston isn’t the first time gunfire has caused panic and tragedy at a Texas house of worship.
It also underscored the ease with which guns can be brought to shrines in a state with few restrictions on gun ownership, as well as a growing effort by some churches to provide armed security, either by volunteers or paid off-duty officers.
Sunday’s shooting at Lakewood Church ended when two off-duty officers working security returned fire on a woman who police said entered the building carrying a long gun and a backpack. A five-year-old child who accompanied her to church was also shot and seriously injured, authorities said.
Here’s a look at shootings at other houses of worship in Texas and the laws surrounding firearms:
In November 2017, a gunman killed 26 people, including eight children, and injured another 20 people at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs. The gunman later died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after being shot and chased by two men who heard the gunfire in the church.
In December 2019, a man pulled out a shotgun during a service at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement and killed two worshipers before being shot and killed by two congregants who were part of a volunteer security team.
In September 1999, a man shot and killed seven people and injured seven others before killing himself at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
Texas does not require a permit to carry a pistol or rifle, although state law sets the minimum age for handguns at 21. Texas has also been an “open carry” state since 2015, allowing people to carry their weapons in plain sight. , and eliminated the requirement for a pistol permit in 2021.
During the first regular legislative session after the Sutherland Springs massacre, Texas lawmakers in 2019 clarified state law to allow the carrying of weapons in houses of worship unless specifically prohibited by a municipality with written and verbal notice.
Texas law does not require churches to provide armed security, although they may have volunteer security teams or hire security from law enforcement agencies or licensed security guards.
Police said the two members of the Lakewood security team who shot the gunman Sunday were an off-duty officer with the Houston Police Department and an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Both will be placed on administrative leave while their respective agencies investigate the shooting.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner and other authorities on the scene praised officers for taking down the gunman.
“She had a long gun and it could have been worse,” Finner said. “But they stepped up and did their job.”