AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The weekend shooting at Joel Osteen’s house megachurch in Houston This is not the first time gunfire has caused panic and tragedy at a Texas house of worship.
It also highlighted the ease of bringing guns into sanctuaries in a state where gun ownership is restricted, as well as growing efforts by some churches to provide armed securityeither through volunteers or paid agents on leave.
Sunday’s shooting at Lakewood Church ended when two off-duty security guards, who were working security, returned fire at a shooter who police say entered the building with an AR-style rifle and a backpack.
Police identified the shooter as 36-year-old Genesse Ivonne Moreno. Authorities said Moreno’s 7-year-old son, whom the shooter brought into the church, was shot in the head and seriously injured.
Here’s a look at shootings at other places of worship in Texas and the laws surrounding guns:
2017: SUTHERLAND SPRINGS
In November 2017, a gunman killed 26 people, including eight children, and injured 20 others at the First Baptist Church. in Sutherland Springs. The gunman later died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after being shot and chased by two men who heard the gunshots in the church.
2019: WHITE REGULATION
In December 2019, a man pulled out a shotgun during a service at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement and killed two worshipers, before being shot and killed by two worshipers who were part of A volunteer security team.
1999: GREAT VALUE
In September 1999, a man shot and killed seven people and injured seven others before committing suicide at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
TEXAS GUN LAWS
Texas does not require a license to carry a handgun or rifle, although state law sets a minimum age for handguns at 21. Texas is also an “open carry” state, which allows people to carry their guns in plain sight, since 2015, and eliminated the handgun permit requirement in 2021.
In the first regular legislative session after the Sutherland Springs massacre, Texas lawmakers in 2019 clarified state law to allow the carrying of weapons in places of worship unless specifically prohibited by a congregation with written and oral notice.
Texas law does not require churches to provide armed security, although they are allowed to have volunteer security teams or hire security guards from law enforcement or licensed guards.
Police said the two members of the Lakewood security team who shot the shooter Sunday are an off-duty Houston Police Department officer and an agent with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission. Both will be placed on administrative leave while their respective agencies investigate the shooting.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner and other authorities at the scene praised officers for taking down the shooter.
“They stepped up and did their job,” Finner said.
This story has been updated to correct the age of the Lakewood church shooter’s son to 7, not 5.