Local residents have been enflamed by the death of 26 people in Sutherland Springs, Texas, after the United States Air Force made mistakes which permitted a known violent offender to purchase a gun.
“I open the Winston-Salem paper and it’s like ‘Horrific’ is the huge headline and I just had to go sit down,” said Jane Motsinger of the Galloway Memorial Episcopal Church, where the Elkin Peace Pole hosted a clutch of concerned citizens Monday evening in a candlelight vigil.
“I just needed to do something because to just sit there and pray about it doesn’t seem to be enough anymore because it just keeps happening,” said Motsinger, who described feeling, “a certain degree of frustration and deep sorrow for the people, that one more time [there has been a shooting.] There’s 58 last month.
“It’s happened so often it’s like, ‘Oh God, here it is again,’” said Motsinger. “I start to feel numb and I don’t want to feel numb about it. Not again, not again. Enough is enough. It’s got to stop.”
“I couldn’t imagine that many people could be killed,” said Galloway Memorial Episcopal Church Vicar Gaye Brown. “I’ve been really deeply troubled with what has happened. It only made sense to come and be a part of this even though I’ve been on the road all day.”
Brown takes personal responsibility for the shooting in Texas.
“As far as I’m concerned I am responsible in part for what happened in Texas,” said Brown, “because I failed to love in the way that God calls me to love quite often.
“I failed to see the value in someone that God would invite me to see. I failed to walk in a way that would uplift those who might be suffering,” said Brown, “who might indeed have an illness or have had such a tragic life that it’s hard for them to do anything other than rage against the world. None of us can take that on ourselves, but together we can make a difference. That’s what I believe.”
The United States Air Force also shouldered some of the blame.
According to an official statement by the Air Force, “Initial information indicates that [Devin] Kelley’s domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations.”
“The Air Force did not do what they was supposed to do when they give him a Dishonorable Discharge,” said National Rifle Association member and Vietnam War veteran Frank Wooten as he discussed the incident at Elk Outdoors Tuesday afternoon. “He was not supposed to even bought a rifle.”
Fellow veteran and NRA member Wood James explained further, “His being mentally disabled, that wasn’t documented when he was released. It was a failure in the system for this to have happened. Things were not taken care of properly.”
“He couldn’t get a license, but then he went into a licensed gun store and bought the gun so there’s something there that needs to be changed,” said Motsinger, who thinks prayer is not enough, but it needs to start with the law makers.
“The people that we need to be praying for are our Congress and our leaders that they would have the courage to actually pass laws to do something about it, to help make it stop,” said Motsinger.
“We already have laws there,” said gun owner Jon Poe. “If they would have been enforced, this never would have happened.”
“It’s not the gun’s fault,” said Wooten.
“A gun can lay there until it rusts and decays, it’s the nut behind it,” agreed James.
Motsinger expected that argument.
“The argument that you hear is that it’s not the gun, it’s the person,” said Motsinger. “OK so if it’s the person, then we need to do everything we can to make sure that people that shouldn’t have the guns can’t get the guns.”
Locally one of the individuals charged with that is Matthew Kennedy, owner of Elk Outdoors.
“If you buy a hand gun, you have to have a purchase permit or a conceal and carry card or I will not see to you,” said Kennedy, explaining the purchase process.
To receive a conceal and carry card, people must take eight to 10 hours of classes which include safety concerns as well as responsibilities. A purchase permit goes through the sheriff’s office where in-depth background checks are completed.
“With that he don’t have to make a phone call or nothing,” said Wooten, showing his permit. “It shows I ain’t never done nothing wrong in my life.”
The time it takes between applying for a permit can vary depending on the county.
“They’ll do a background check on you there then they’ll call you back,” said Kennedy. “It could be a week. I heard Iredell County’s about three months out.”
Those who do want the privilege of owning a gun need to think more than three months ahead.
Although the system may not have worked in the situation in Texas, at Elk Outdoors the slightest violation can prevent gun ownership.
“I had turn to a guy down recently for a DUI even though it was a long time ago,” said Kennedy, reminding that a domestic violence accusation is also enough to be turned down.
The primary concern of both sides of the argument is mental health, which Motsinger and company hoped would start with them in the support they give strangers as well as friends.
“I think just coming together [will make a difference] even if it’s only three or two coming together,” said Brown, “affirming that we are children of God and that we are called to live lives in a way that expresses God’s love to everyone and I think that we can’t do that without each other.
“I really think that we do need each other,” continued Brown. “I will be at my best when I know that other people are standing alongside me. If I’m to do things that might help change the world in the tiniest little way, I need to know that I’m not alone.”
“I hope we’re providing an environment for people to just come and to be present,” said Motsinger, “to stand and share the pain and suffering and sorrow of the people that have been affected. To pray that those families somehow be comforted and healed, although I can’t imagine that if it was happening to me right now.”
Donations to help with funeral expenses and other costs related to the shooting can be made directly to First Baptist Church of Southerland Springs at www.ssfb.net.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.