Photo: Still image from the Church of Christ depicting the moment a church security volunteer shot a would-be mass shooter during Sunday service outside of Fort Worth, Texas
By David Martinez
This past Sunday, a man opened fire at the Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas outside of Fort Worth, killing two parishioners before being quickly shot in the head by a member of the church’s volunteer security team.
The church attacker was identified as 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen, who had an established criminal history as well as a life of violent instability, drug use, and poverty according to public records and family interviews.
“I know he was mentally ill,” Kinnunen’s ex-wife, Angela Holloway, asserted to local Dallas news. “The last time he spoke to us he just wasn’t in his right mind.”
What could have potentially led to a higher number of victims was halted by the action of Jack Wilson, a church security volunteer and former Sheriff’s deputy. This has resulted in the predictable celebration of Wilson from the right-wing of the ruling-class, who emphasize gun possession in the US as a means of personal protection from the scourge of US mass shootings, and also seek to celebrate law enforcement and those affiliated with it.
President Donald Trump tweeted in support of the volunteer after the incident, saying, “Lives were saved by these heroes, and Texas laws allowing them to carry arms!”
The laws Trump is referring to are those recently implemented in Texas: one passed in 2019 allowing weapons to be carried in a church, as well as another in 2017, which allows churches to form volunteer security teams. These measures were passed in the wake of the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017, which left 26 dead and another 20 injured.
“We lost two great men today but it could have been a lot worse and I am thankful that our government has allowed us a way to protect ourselves,” church minister Britt Farmer said in an interview.
These laws may have legalized armed community defense in churches, but it is wrong to credit the US government with thwarting a greater tragedy when it is the state’s enforcement of capitalism that creates the poverty, despair, and reactionary ideas that motivate mass shooters. In addition, bourgeois gun laws, from both liberal and reactionary politicians, are not meant to protect the working class.
Gun debates among the ruling class are only about maintaining state and ideological control over who is allowed access to guns, in the interest of oppressing the working class and the masses generally. The right-wing promotes the idea of the “good guy with a gun” to cater to those parts of the petty bourgeois who form their social base and see personal defense and protection of property as primary.
The liberal wing of the ruling class took the shooting as another opportunity to push more piecemeal gun reform laws, citing Kinnunen’s history of arrests and mental illness as factors that should have prevented him from accessing a firearm. In this way, the anti-gun liberals function to sow fear and limit gun access to the most reactionary and counterrevolutionary sectors like police and military, thus preserving the state’s monopoly on weapons access.
In both camps, the collective, self-organized defense of workers from reactionary, imperialist violence is off the table.
The quick action of the church’s volunteer security saved lives in this instance, and illustrates that on-guard community members can respond to shooting incidents quickly with training and awareness. But any community self-defense must be tied to political organizing that recognizes the imperialist roots of mass shooters and understanding it is the US imperialist system itself which wages war on the people. Bourgeois gun laws ultimately do not serve the working class, and the ruling class will not celebrate when it is workers and oppressed groups arming themselves to take power.