In recent weeks, gun rights have become a topic of interest for many voters in Texas, with some saying guns are the issue and there should be numerous restrictions on them. However, Stephen Willeford, the man who stopped the mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, says the problem is mental health, not access to firearms.

In an interview with Texas Scorecard at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in Houston last week, Willeford said the federal government is trying to pass laws that curtail gun ownership will not affect the number of mass shootings across the country.

“None of these bills that they’re trying to pass would make any difference or would have stopped an evil man from getting a gun,” Willeford said. “We know in France that guns are illegal in general, and yet they keep getting hit with fully automatic AK-47s. Bad guys are going to get guns.”

While many on the left say putting more restrictions on guns or outright banning them will solve the issue, the opposite has proven to be true. 

In France, a sporting or hunting license is required to legally obtain a firearm. However, as many Second Amendment advocates have said, individuals with criminal intent will find a way to obtain guns illegally. 

In fact, France, which has banned the majority of guns, is now dealing with the black market selling military-style weapons—valued at approximately a few thousand dollars—to citizens. It is also thought that the number of illegal guns in France is at least double the number of legally obtained guns. 

Looking back into the United States, Texas Scorecard has reported that states with more gun control have higher homicide rates compared to their less restrictive counterparts.

For example, in the Sutherland Springs mass shooting that took place in a Baptist church, 26 people were killed and more than 20 were injured. However, Stephen Willeford stepped in with his legally owned firearm and chased off the gunman.

Willeford, who is now affiliated with Gun Owners of America, states that focusing on mental health—not maturity and age—is the key to tackling the mass shootings issue.

“In 2017, when the guy started shooting up the First Baptist Church, he was 26 years old. That’s not a maturity issue; it’s not an age question,” Willeford said. 

He is also very outspoken about the Age 21 Act recently introduced to the U.S. Senate. The proposal would raise the minimum age to own and buy a firearm from 18 to 21. 

“As far as the 18-year-old bill, that has nothing to do with maturity and everything to do with mental illness. An 18-year-old serves his country and goes across the pond with a M-16 or an Abram tank and serves his country honorably,” Willeford said. 

While there are several bills coming out to regulate gun ownership, Stephen Willeford and Gun Owners of America argue that raising the minimum age to 21 will not solve the problem. 

“If you want to do something, and really make a difference … get rid of gun-free zones [and] start training teachers to defend their students. I’m not saying you should force a teacher to carry a gun, but there’s teachers in every school that would be willing to take the training and to join the guardian program.”


Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.