A church in Mexico, NY is not taking chances after last weekend's mass shooting at a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, TX. The killer, who we've since learned escaped from a mental institution in 2012 and had a history of domestic abuse, shot and killed 26 churchgoers and wounded 20 others. The number of people killed amounted to about 4 percent of the small town's population.
In light of the tragedy, the Lighthouse Mexico Church of God, located in upstate New York, has a warning for any one wanting to do harm to their congregation. The church has a sign outside its building which presumably lists Bible verses and encouraging words of faith most of the year. But, after Sunday's massacre, it now reads, "We say it again, we are not a gun free zone."
Pastor Ronald Russell explained that his church has allowed members to carry firearms since the 2015 shooting in Charleston, SC, when a white supremacist slain nine black church members at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The shooting in Texas on Sunday just cemented their policy.
"Times are changing," Russell told Spectrum News on Thursday. "It's not the congregation, per se, but the leadership. People say 'well, pastor, you're talking about killing some,' and I say 'well, if I don't protect my people, I'm being complicit.' A shooting here, that's not going to happen."
In addition to its gun-friendly policy, the church also offers self defense courses for its congregants.
Other churches have taken similar steps after Sunday's tragedy. In Michigan, the state Senate approved legislation this week to allow individuals to conceal carry handguns into churches, schools, and day care centers. Work had begun on the legislation before last weekend's shooting in Texas, but the tragedy made the legislation "more timely than ever," according to Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, (R-West Olive).
The bill is now moving to the state House.