John Riley is 80 years old and has spent almost all of them in Sutherland Springs, Texas. As he drives his pickup truck just a few blocks away from the First Baptist Church, the scene of Sunday’s shooting, he says he still can’t get his head around the fact that a tragedy of this magnitude could ever happen in such a small, rural community.
“It’s unreal. It is unbelievable,” he said. The whole community, located some 30 miles (48 kilometers) outside of San Antonio, is still grappling with what happened.
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Riley had once belonged to the church, although he hadn’t been there in decades. He still lives just down the street, which has now been cordoned off by police.
Riley may be an outlier in this small community where gun ownership is common. Although he owns a deer rifle and comes from a family of deer hunters, he believes that assault-type weapons should be banned in the US.
“No individual should own assault rifles,” he said. While he does believe that other arms, such as deer rifles or shotguns, should be allowed, “all this assault mess, it needs to be taken away,” he said.
‘Everybody knows everybody’
Billy Morgan was visiting a close friend whose relative lost family members in the shooting. However, he’s not convinced that taking people’s guns away is the solution to the latest in a series of mass shootings in the US. “It’s not the gun… I mean it is the gun, but it is really the person behind it,” he said.
Still, Morgan admits that “everyone’s pretty shook up.” Why in a church? Why on a Sunday? “You don’t think about things like this in a little town in the middle of nowhere,” he said.
Asked about whether he thinks the current cycle of violence will continue or subside, Morgan said he could imagine more “chaos in the coming few months or years,” but then, he hopes, things will calm down again — at least, in Sutherland Springs. “It’s really quiet here. Everybody knows everybody.”
Following Sunday’s massacre in Sutherland Springs, resident Billy Morgan thinks there will be more “violent chaos over the coming few months or years” in the US
Michelle Timburt is rushing into one of the two convenience stores in Sutherland Springs to pick up some groceries before going back to feed her horses. She had tears in her eyes as she told how the owner of the home schooling organization where she had just started teaching was a member of First Baptist Church. The owner had homeschooled many of the children who were shot in the massacre, and even knew the alleged shooter.
“She was scared of him,” Timburt said. “In fact, she broke up ties with family because she was scared of him. He never should have been able to get a hold of this particular type of gun.”
But Timburt also said that her boss had told her how many of the churchgoers have licenses to carry concealed weapons. They just didn’t happen to be at church that day. “If they were,” she said, “this would have been over far quicker.”