Man Accidentally Shoots Wife in Church While Discussing Gun Safety

As he was about to show the gun to the member, however, the 81-year-old church member accidentally pulled the trigger of the still loaded gun hitting his 80-year-old wife

Mayhem erupted at a Tennessee church Thursday after an elderly man celebrating at an early Thanksgiving event with other seniors accidentally shot his wheelchair bound wife during a gun safety discussion.

The couple’s family have asked that they remain unidentified for now but a report in The Washington Post said the man and his wife are members of the First United Method Church in Tellico Plains where the shooting happened.

Police say misinformation about what initially happened at the church sparked a brief lock-down at the local hospital and several local schools before police realized what really happened at the church.

Tellico Plains Police Chief Russ Parks explained that about 20 seniors were at the church having an early Thanksgiving meal. In light of the recent mass shootings that have taken place, including the massacre at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas, the group decided to discuss gun safety.

The 81-year-old shooter quickly volunteered to demonstrate, declaring: “Well, I’ve got my gun on me.” 

Parks said the man pulled out his holster to reveal a .38-caliber Ruger handgun. He then removed the magazine, cleared the chamber and began showing the gun to the other parishioners. 

first-united-church-tellico-plains
Inside the First United Methodist Church in Tellico Plains, Tennessee.

The group later discussed how to bring guns to church safely while lamenting the many people who have been killed in mass shootings across the country.

After the discussion and demonstration, the 81-year-old man replaced the magazine in his gun and put it back safely in his holster.

The group was cleaning up after the meal when a member who had missed the gun safety demonstration asked to see the gun.

As he was about to show the gun to the member, however, the 81-year-old church member accidentally pulled the trigger of the still loaded gun hitting his 80-year-old wife who was sitting next to him in a wheelchair.

The bullet, according to The Washington Post, tore through the woman’s lower left abdomen, exited the right side of her abdomen, then ripped through her right forearm before exiting through the backside of her forearm.

Parks said the bullet then hit a wall and ricocheted to land under the wheelchair of the shooter’s wife.

Most of the members who were there did not realize the church member was showing the gun again, so many assumed they were dealing with an active shooter at the church.

“They had their backs to it,” Parks told The Washington Post. “Somebody hollers, ‘He’s been shot! She’s been shot! Call 911!’ So someone grabs their cellphone and calls 911, and says we’ve had somebody shot at church.”

On Nov. 5, Air Force veteran Devin Kelley, 26, entered First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas and executed 26 members and seriously injured 20 others in a 7-minute long attack.

Authorities say Kelley began firing his Ruger AR-556 rifle at the church building shortly after the 11 a.m. service began. He emptied more than 15 magazines, holding 30 rounds each.

 

Texas Massacre Prompts Some Churches to Consider Concealed Guns and Armed Security

“God is our protector,” said Burdette, 62, “but I do still think that we need to have people with conceal carry.”

After one of the nation’s deadliest mass shootings unfolded on their doorstep, pastors and parishioners around the tiny Texas hamlet of Sutherland Springs have begun asking whether guns have a rightful place inside their houses of worship.

It is a debate that is echoing across the United States as security experts and some politicians ask churches to consider a wide range of enhanced measures to thwart tragedies like Sunday’s deadly rampage at the First Baptist Church.

Barbara Burdette, who knew the 26 people killed in the massacre and as well as the 20 wounded, is ready to see her church hire armed security, or allow congregants to carry their own concealed firearms for self-defense.

“God is our protector,” said Burdette, 62, “but I do still think that we need to have people with conceal carry.”

Her pastor at the First Baptist Church of La Vernia, a one-story brick sanctuary 7 miles from the shooting scene, said the issue of guns in church requires a delicate balance between providing safety instead of fear.

Arming parishioners is not the only option. At the historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, where a white gunman killed nine at a June 2015 bible study session, uniformed police officers now attend regular worship services.

“It’s part of our new normal,” said Reverend Eric Manning at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, by phone. He said the church also created in-house security, as have most black churches in the region.

Muslim and Jewish institutions for years have added security measures to address the threat of violence and hate crimes. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) stresses the importance of security cameras, strong doors and clearing brush away from buildings so attackers have no place to hide.

A law enforcement vehicle prominently parked in front of a house of worship is also a strong deterrent to crime, said Claude Pichard, director of Training Force USA, which worked with churches across the country to improve security after the Charleston shooting.

The question of enabling, or even encouraging, parishioners to shoot back is a discussion particularly important to communities where guns are a part of life, such as rural Texas.

In Sutherland Springs, the shooter was confronted as he left the church by a resident who shot and wounded him.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told Fox News that churches should consider whether they wanted parishioners to be armed as a way of preventing another tragedy.

His state allows for the concealed carrying of handguns by licensed owners. It is not clear exactly how First Baptist Church, where the shooting occurred, addressed gun issues.

A sheriff in Williamson County, Texas, a two-hour drive from the massacre, expects to discuss arming parishioners at a church security summit he is organizing in the wake of the attack. He said churches have a responsibility to ensure that responding officers can distinguish a protector from the assailant.

“What are you doing to make sure we don’t have a friendly on friendly fire?” said Sheriff Robert Chody by phone.

New Life Church, a congregation of 10,000 people in Colorado Springs, Colorado, requires churchgoers to leave their guns in their vehicles, a decade after it was the scene of a deadly shooting that killed two. A parishioner trained in church security used a firearm to wound the shooter, preventing greater carnage, said pastor Brady Boyd.

“Pastors are now waking up to this reality that we are not living in Mayberry anymore,” he said, referring to the fictitious North Carolina hometown on the “Andy Griffith Show,” a long-running 1960s television comedy.

He pointed out that no church could have security in place to withstand an attack by a military-trained shooter using an assault rifle, the scenario that unfolded this weekend in Texas.

About 10 miles from the shooting, Floresville Christian Fellowship Pastor Bennie Herrera said he needed to re-examine security but knows there is only so much that can be done.

“We will not be gripped by fear,” he said. “Faith will rise up and we will come together,” he said.

 by Reuters