President Donald Trump has praised the “heroes” who shot and killed a gunman seconds after he opened fire on churchgoers in a Texas Church on Sunday.
The men, who police said are volunteer security guards at the church, returned fire on the gunman after he began shooting at parishioners at the West Freeway Church of Christ in the city of White Settlement, roughly eight miles west of Fort Worth.
Two men were killed and a third was hospitalized when 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen opened fire on more than 200 churchgoers after he had sat down alongside other parishioners, joining in their church service.
The president also sent his condolences to the families of the victims, who authorities named as 64-year-old Anton Wallace and 67-year-old Richard White.
“Our prayers are with the families of the victims and the congregation of yesterday’s church attack. It was over in 6 seconds thanks to the brave parishioners who acted to protect 242 fellow worshippers,” Trump said.
Trump also credited new Texas gun laws for preventing any further carnage in the shooting, saying: “Lives were saved by these heroes, and Texas laws allowing them to carry arms.”
The shooting comes after firearm laws in Texas became less restrictive on Sept. 1 when the Senate Bill 535 was passed, allowing licensed handgun owners to carry firearms into places of worship, such as churches, mosques, and synagogues.
Under the bill, licensed handgun owners are also legally allowed to carry their weapons foster homes, public school grounds, and apartment buildings.
“We have learned many times over that there is no such thing as a gun-free zone. Those with evil intentions will violate the law and carry out their heinous acts no matter what,” Texas state Senator Donna Campbell (R), co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement.
“It makes no sense to disarm the good guys and leave law-abiding citizens defenseless where violent offenders break the law to do great harm.
“The existing statute is confusing and clunky when it comes to clearly stating the rights of licensed Texans to carry on the premises of a church,” Campbell added.
“This bill provides clarity of the legislature’s intent to treat churches in the same manner as other privately owned establishments in Texas.”
Kinnunen reportedly has a number of previous felonies on his record, including charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of an illegal weapon after police found him surveilling an oil refinery with a 12-gauge shotgun.
Meanwhile, a number of politicians in the state have also cited Sunday’s church shooting as an example of how the new gun laws can allow an armed civilian to respond to a mass shooter, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R).
“Had this law not been passed and allowed these people to be armed, I fear we could’ve lost hundreds,” he told Fox News on Monday.
Paxton added that he hoped that video footage of the churchgoers firing back at the gunman on Sunday’s attack would prompt other states to pass similar pro-second amendment laws.
“I think it’ll end up saving lives for years and years and years,” he said.
“I’m very hopeful that people can see the evidence and act accordingly.”