ON JUNE 17, 2015, one criminal’s lone-wolf attack on a prayer service in South Carolina became the latest killing spree to attract headlines — and fundraising pleas from gun control advocates. Although disturbed journals of the suspect were found, detailing how alone the man felt in his prejudice, the attacks were still hailed not only as emblematic of systemic racism but a springboard to demand tighter restrictions on the guns in your home. Almost automatically, politicians began musing that new laws could stop future violence. Of course, since South Carolina churches are gun-free zones by law (pending clergy exemption) and since the suspect was not legally permitted to purchase, own or carry a gun, it requires intense imagination to suppose added laws would have deterred him. Every mass shooting sparks discussions of what went wrong and how to further secure target locations — in this case, churches. Spree killings can (and do) happen anywhere, but records indicate church shootings are on the rise.
In May 2015, a Connecticut pastor setting up Memorial Day flags outside his Nazarene church was wounded in a drive-by shooting. In 2008, a Maryville, Illinois, pastor was gunned down in the middle of his sermon, with witnesses reporting the man unsuccessfully tried to use his Bible as a shield from the gunfire. In 2012, a Wisconsin Sikh temple fell under siege from a lone gunman, who killed six and wounded four. Two Catholic priests were shot in a Phoenix parish in 2014. A 2008 Universalist church shooting left two dead and seven wounded, while a 2007 Missouri church shooting left a pastor and two deacons dead. In 2006, a Louisiana service was halted when five people were shot, four fatally, before the shooter abducted and murdered his wife.
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